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Thursday, October 1, 2015

Emergency Plans and Protecting Our Colleges-Shooting at Umpqua Community College

A 20-year old man starts shooting on campus at Umpqua Community College leading to up to 13 deaths and many others injured. The wholesale taking out of one's problems on society seems to be a growing trend. It sparks the need to create better emergency plans and adjusting campus design when new buildings are upgraded or added.

There is no perfect emergency response plan but having one can go a long way in saving lives. It may not stop an action from starting but certainly can limit the damage such actions have by responding quickly to emerging threats.

A solid emergency plan should create quick communication that lets people know where the event is occurring and how to respond. Communication can include cell phones, PA announcements, media interaction, law enforcement, and line of site coordination that keeps an eye on the attacker.

Locking doors and keeping people away from open spaces and windows may help protect people from getting in the line of fire. More importantly a locked door may offer a few moments of respite needed to prepare or evaluate as the attacker finds a way to deal with or around the obstacle.

Ensuring necessary medical equipment and law enforcement staging areas are available for quick set up and  use.  Making it easy for public officials to get in and out of the area to set up their operations is helpful.

Having someone who can remotely connect with university records to identify the attacker can help search out motives, contact information, connect family, and uncover evidence. Coordination of information with law enforcement can speed reaction times.

Arming campus security can help ensure there is someone who can quickly react if needed. There is a balance between protection and not turning schools into military compounds. Sometimes only another armed individual can remove the threat.

Reviewing and updating plans based on emerging threats and trends. Learning from other schools and events helps to keep plans fresh and up-to-date. Sharing those plans with faculty helps when students look for knowledgeable authority figures when chaos occurs.

Redesigning new buildings and considering emergency in existing building design would help create natural barriers that reduce the reach of the gunman's attack. A shrub, half wall, dead bolt, fence,or change in outlay could slow an attacker and save lives.

Drilling and practicing the plan can help faculty lock doors, help students, remove threats, open communication channels and stay calm. Each faculty should have certain actions to take to minimize exposure.

We all hope such incidents don't happen in the future but we can never be too sure. Some people solve their problems through violence and schools must be prepared for this inevitable fact of modern life. Having solid emergency plans in place can make a big difference. Helping people understand those plans and their responsibilities during such situations is helpful in limiting damage.

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