By Colter Hettich, Features Editor
The tragic shooting at Virginia Tech University one year ago shook universities across the country to their very foundations. The shock rippled all the way from Blacksburg, Va., to Abilene, where the administration at ACU joined with the ACU Police Department to re-evaluate emergency strategies and protocol.
ACU Police Chief Jimmy Ellison said before what many call the “Virginia Tech massacre,” school shootings on a mass level had been focused on high school campuses.
“Initially, it caused some reflection and some review,” Ellison said. “We immediately asked ourselves, ‘Are we trained and prepared to deal with an event here like what happened at Virginia Tech?'”
Changes began to take place almost instantly.
ACUPD planned a largescale disaster drill for the whole campus on May 4 that will include local law enforcement and emergency
services. The drill is designed to simulate a mass school shooting and to test several vital elements of responding to a shooting-in-progress.
“We want to test local emergency response and how well local law enforcement agencies work together,” Ellison said. “We also
want to see if we can all talk to each other [via radio] like we say we can.”
Also, only select members of ACU’s police force were trained in active shooter response tactics. So in January, ACUPD hosted an eight-day active shooter responsetactics training class. The class featured force-on-force training, meaning officers used and were fired at with live rounds during training scenarios.
The shooting at Columbine High School changed law enforcement’s response to a shooting-in-progress.
“I don’t think a lot of people understand that the first officer’s response [after he has a small team together] is to enter the building, locate the shooter and engage the shooter,” Ellison said. “It goes against old police training and what the public might expect.”
Ellison also said the police department expects to get a quick-fact overview sheet out to students in the near future.
Though emergency response strategies are essential, Ellison could not stress the importance of prevention strategies enough.
The campus police department has worked closely with the administration to coordinate programs, such as Support Our Students (S.O.S.), to keep warning signs from going unnoticed.
“We have worked with the administration and various programs and are doing everything we can to make sure nobody falls through the cracks,” Ellison said.
No official, on-campus activities have been planned to honor the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Virginia Tech.
If you are caught in a shooting:
* Notify police, and try to get away from the danger.
* If you are in a room inside a building, lock the door, turn off the light and stay out of sight.
* Attempt to subdue the shooter. This should be a last resort. These are guidelines for highly stressful situations. ACUPD understands that in the event of a shooting-in-progress, the individual must do what he or she sees fit based on the circumstances.