Active shooter awareness is critical in time of national tragedy
In the case of an active shooter, UW-River Falls has a written “Emergency Response Guide” posted online. It details the steps that a person should follow should an active assailant appear on campus unexpectedly. The first recommended course of action is to run away if at all possible. Failing that, a person should hide out of view where they are offered protection from potential gunfire. The last resort is to fight off the assailant with whatever is on hand. The University has determined that this three-step process is the most effective way to react to this sort of situation.
We at the Student Voice think this is not enough. After the tragedy in Las Vegas where a gunman left over 50 dead and 500 injured, we feel that it is the responsibility of universities to ensure that students are well-aware of the fact that this situation could arise at any given moment. It is all-too easy to believe that such a thing could never occur in one’s hometown. However, an article from Mother Jones shows that the frequency and violence of mass shootings in the U.S. has been on the rise over the past decade. There have already been nine with double-digit fatalities in the last ten years, three of which broke the record for the deadliest shooting in U.S. history at the time.
Our suggestion is to increase campus-wide awareness of the Emergency Response Guide steps. This would include posting the steps in every classroom and hallway much like a tornado or fire drill plan. It would also include holding lockdown drills to ensure that people react with a fear response that can save their lives, rather than simply freezing up. We also propose using the emergency response system as a means for conveying what to do in an active shooter situation. The broadcast would alert students as well as give directions for steps to ensure their safety.
This, however, is a case of treating the symptoms but not the disease. It is clear that mass shootings are on the rise, and it is not enough to simply label these gunmen as “outliers” and teach people how to deal with them should they appear. We need to recognize this problem as something that is rooted in our society’s outlook on mental health.
Mental health issues carry a significant stigma in our culture, and it can be difficult for someone suffering from an illness to reach out to family, friends or professionals to help. Similarly, there is a society-wide aversion to intruding on the troubles of other people. When faced with a potential opportunity to take a step and reach out towards someone who is struggling, we often freeze much like we would in the case of an active shooter. Taking this step into a person’s life is often essential in preventing further harm, both for the afflicted person and for those around them.
As it has been proven in these recent mass shootings, these situations can arise anywhere and anytime in the country. Taking these steps to increase awareness and plan for action not only allow us to be ready, but also bring the problem to the forefront where it belongs.