TCNJ active-shooter efforts admirable
Editorial | University must take necessary precautions as well
Leading the way for colleges in New Jersey in mass-shooting safety precautions, The College of New Jersey is using its spring break this week to host “active killer” simulations on campus, according to NJ.com. The simulations are intended to provide real-life practice on how to deal with live fire on school grounds. The activity is quite impressive and should be undertaken by the University as well.
With officers, innocent bystanders and even a fake killer, the practice sets the scene as realistically as possible, with people committing to their parts in the setup. The guns are filled with soap bullets that appear red when they are shot at a target. The officers pretend that they are responding to a real shooting being carried out as accurately as possible — even down to the distraction of people screaming and shouting for help.
State officers carry out these simulations to train both TCNJ campus officers and Mercer County sheriff’s police. The practice that was carried out on March 12 was the first time they worked together in how to address the dangerous scenario, according to NJ.com. All N.J. officers are required to participate in the training — as well as TCNJ officers in this case — who intend to prepare them in the case of a mass shooting in public places.
It is surprising that our University does not host the same type of activities on our campus. As a much larger school than TCNJ, our circumstances necessitate adequate attention to the various possible situations that might arise on different campuses and in different buildings. University police, at the very least, should be required to go through active shooter training — especially with state and county police — in order to know how to work with each other as efficiently as possible.
Not only should our University hold similar practice for officers, but it should also take one step further and prepare the students themselves. Students are entitled to receive education by their school on how they can protect their lives in the case of a potential crisis. Elementary schools hold lockdown drills for a similar purpose, in which students practice reacting to a threat. They are informed of the best place to hide in their classroom, how to react calmly and quickly — often being timed — and are given necessary safety guidelines about how to get help fast to avoid endangering themselves or their peers further.
It took a Google search to discover that the University has “Active Shooter Resources” on its Rutgers University Police Department site with guidelines about how to deal with the situation — but how many University students even know this page exists? How many have actually read it? And how would text on a webpage provide the necessary preparation for such a dangerous and critical real-life situation?
While University dorms may have safety plans, no mandatory program exists that would inform students about them. It is especially frightening that there are no developed procedures on what to do if someone were to open fire in the building. It would be extremely plausible to create effective lockdown plans tailored to each building and to hold mandatory building or floor meetings to inform students about them. It would not be a bad idea to carry out simulation drills as well.
It is obvious that our University lacks a viable and sufficient plan of action in dealing with shooters. We can’t ignore that the country’s deadliest school massacre in recent history was at a university, Virginia Tech University. With last year’s Sandy Hook shooting, the concern about school massacres is increasing again — and we don’t want to wait for a tragedy for our University to realize it needs to revisit its safety precautions and make them the best it possibly can. Protecting the lives of our students deserves every effort.
Correction: The above editorial incorrectly states that the Rutgers University Police Department has "no developed procedures on what to do if someone were to open fire in the building." In fact, RUPD regularly carries out active shooter drills on the Rutgers Campus and has delivered active shooter situational awareness training to the Rutgers community for the past several years. Information on these procedures can be found by visiting RUPD's active shooter resource page at http://rupd.rutgers.edu/shooter.html, or at https://halflife.rutgers.edu/eap/eap.html.