Dealing with Campus Violence
The first response to any emergency should include calling 911!
What do we do?
How can we lower the chances of it happening here?
Have you thought about how you would react if it happened to you?
Major categories of school violence that we have to deal with in today's world include:
- Bombs and bomb threats
- Assaults on individuals (fights, stabbing, shootings, kidnapping)
- Assaults on groups (hostage taking, mass shootings)
- Ways to prevent a hostage situation or shooting.
EVERY SITUATION IS UNIQUE. We can only talk about response and prevention in general terms and with general suggestions. The following is a guide for different situations and how you can expect the police to respond to these incidents.
1. BOMBS AND BOMB THREATS
Report all threats (specific and vague) by calling 911. Get as much information as possible.
Document the EXACT wording of the threat and caller’s response.
We suggest the following steps and questions be asked when responding to a potential phone-in bomb threat:
- When is the bomb going to explode?
- Where is the bomb located right now?
- What does it look like?
- What kind of bomb is it?
- What will cause it to explode?
- Did you place the bomb?
- What is your address?
- What is your name?
- What is your phone number?
Remember: document the EXACT wording of the threat and caller’s response.
Other information to document:
- Apparent gender, race, and age of the caller.
- Characteristics of the caller’s voice (calm, angry, excited, accent, etc.)
- Background sounds (street noises, static on the line, etc.)
- Threat Language (well spoken, incoherent, taped, irrational).
- If caller ID is available, write down the telephone number.
Contact 911 as soon as possible, the Dispatcher will ask all the questions and let you know when you need to disconnect from the call.
How you should react to arson:
- Do not assume the fire has been reported. Call 911
- Prepare against arson like you would an accidental fire.
- Plan on how to get out of a room. Plan alternate exits (windows). This is especially important because an arsonist often tries to intentionally block the exits to a room to prevent escape. Could you break through a Sheetrock wall, or go through a suspended ceiling if you had to?
- Plan ahead; survey your office or classroom.
- Know where the Fire Extinguishers are.
- Plan on how to get everyone out.
3. ASSAULTS ON INDIVIDUALS
How you should react to an assault:
- If the assault is in progress against you or another; scream, yell, or do something to get as much attention as possible and to get the attacker to stop.
- Call for help (911).
- Aid the victim if possible.
- Be a good witness (including being able to describe the attacker, his clothes, his vehicle, where he went, what he did, what he said).
4. ASSAULTS ON GROUPS: SIGNS TO WATCH FOR
What leads up to shootings or hostage incidents?
- The actors (individuals or groups) often plan the event for days, weeks, or months.
- They warn others with their moods, emotions, or possible falling grades, that trouble or hate is building within them.
- They may brag or boast their plans to others, or threaten others where they can be intentionally overheard.
- They exhibit a progressive increase of violence, anger, hatred, or rudeness to others. The actors are often outcasts, loners, or someone others consider weird. They could belong to a group or gang of similar individuals.
- They may become a rebel against society and authority. They may exhibit a lack of respect for others and the property of others.
5. WAYS TO PREVENT A HOSTAGE SITUATION OR SHOOTING
Ways you can help prevent an assault event or discover these people before they go that far:
- Watch your students for the above behavior and patterns. Watch for loners, outcasts, or groups of persons exhibiting gang behavior. Don't give credibility to groups not recognized by the college.
- Listen to your students. They know far more about what is going on with others in their group than we will ever know. Let them know that they can talk to you about someone or something that is bothering them, or about something that they have overheard. Make it part of your classroom to talk about the tragedies that have happened in Colorado and elsewhere. Get their suggestions.
- Students trust that we will take care of them. Go over the what-ifs with your students. Go over your reaction plan. Explain to them how law enforcement and emergency services will respond to a situation.
- Advise a Dean or SWTJC Police of your observations and concerns. Deans can get counseling for the student, can get them tutoring for their grades, and can possibly help them reverse their self-destructive behavior. The student's past history can be checked to see if they pose a known danger to others.
How you should react to a shooting or hostage event:
- If you are in a class and hear shooting nearby; keep everyone inside, lock the doors, close the blinds, and get everyone on the floor, possibly against a wall out of the line of fire from the windows. STAY THERE! Someone in the class probably has a cell phone with them. Use it to call 911. Emergency personnel will respond and evacuate you when it is safe to do so.
- If suspects are in your room with a gun: Don't challenge them. Don't threaten them. Do what they say. Try to keep things calm. Remember, for the first few minutes, or until they are notified, the police do not know that anything has happened. Then they have to have time to assess the situation and react to the situation. The first few minutes of an incident are critical and most often you are alone with the danger.