Beacon Breakdown: What happens if an active shooter is on campus?

As school shootings and gun violence draw more national attention, The Berkeley Beacon wondered what safety precautions were in place to deal with a worst-case scenario—an active shooter on-campus.

Emerson students advocated for an end to gun violence after the Parkland, Florida shooting on Feb. 14 that left 17 people dead. On March 14, students walked out of class to honor victims from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting. About a week later, they participated in March For Our Lives in Boston and Washington, D.C. in an effort to increase the momentum to reform gun laws.

Active Shooter Protocol

In the case of an active shooter on campus, Emerson College Police Department Chief Robert Smith said ECPD would send out an Emerson Alert to students, their family members, and employees via text, call, email, and the school’s website. Anyone on-campus would be advised to take immediate shelter by finding a safe place to hide and locking or barricading a door if possible.

Smith said the perfect room to hide in locks from the inside, contains a chair or table to serve as a barricade, and has a solid wall with minimal to no glass. According to Smith, all on-campus doors lock from the inside. After the Boston Marathon Bombings in April 2013, Smith said ECPD reviewed doors on campus to make sure each one locked properly.

“[The] emergency notification system … [would describe] immediate actions that would be necessary depending on what’s going on,” Emergency Management Director Chris Beaurpere said in an interview.

The college offers training through ALICE, a national active shooter educational program—but participation by employees is encouraged but not mandatory. The program offers tactics for when an active shooter is on-campus, such as assessing the situation, using plain language to communicate, hiding in a strategic area, preparing to counter an attacker, and evacuating the area when it is safe to do so.

A video posted on Feb. 2 on the ECPD website advises community members on how to plan, evaluate, and respond in the event of an active shooter.

Following the alert, Smith said the Boston Police Department would be notified immediately of the situation, with Smith acting as the liaison between ECPD and BPD. According to Google Maps, the nearest BPD station is 1.1 miles away—an eight-minute drive. However, Smith said BPD officers are always on patrol and would most likely be at the college within two minutes of the first 911 call.

Additionally, ECPD maintains a minimum of two officers and a dispatcher on-duty and on-campus at all times. During periods of high traffic, Fridays and Saturdays from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m., ECPD deploys a minimum of three officers and one dispatcher around campus. ECPD officers are unarmed. 

After the school is secured, the emergency management team, made up of administrators, would convene to track students who need medical attention and update the Emerson community via alerts. The team would also organize a family reunification system to notify parents and family members that their children are safe.

BPD could also deem it necessary to relocate on-campus students, as certain parts of the campus might become active crime scenes, Beaurpere said.

Student Outreach

Emerson also uses its Care, Assistance, and Support Team to aid students with concerning behavior.

CAST, formed in fall 2017, operates across multiple departments to focus on intervention for students who may be at risk of harming themselves or others. Emerson originally created crisis prevention programs after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.  

“These groups nowadays are really important [especially] in light of Parkland to get to know students, connect students, and to be able to understand when that baseline might shift,” Associate Dean for Campus Life Erik Muurisepp said. 

The team also focuses on issues ranging from academic affairs to financial needs and meets once a week during the academic school year to review reports of concerning student behavior. 

Comprised of Muurisepp, Director of Student Care and Support Amanda Turnley, and Director for Retention and Student Success Chris Daly, CAST works directly with submissions, which can be submitted anonymously under the section labeled “Report a Concern” on their website. According to the website, CAST members are trained to only share information with other offices when it’s in the best interest of the student reported.

Outreach varies depending on the severity of the issue. Reports range from troubles in the classroom to concerns that a friend may self-harm, Turnley said. The team then works with departments at the school to ensure a cohesive and personalized support system.

“Everything is very individualized because we want to provide the support for the students in the way that they need it,” Turnley said. “We want to promote [a] culture that if you are concerned about somebody for whatever reason, let somebody know about it. It’s not about invasion of privacy, it’s about making sure students are supported.”

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2 Comments

  1. It would be nice if Emerson got with the times and armed its Campus Police Department to actively respond to this type of threat.

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