A violent attack on the Ohio State University campus last November prompted the University of Michigan Division of Public Safety and Security to make safety precautions more available for University students, staff and community members.
The incident involved Ohio State student Abdul Razak Ali Artan, who drove a car into a crowded area next to a campus building and proceeded to attack people with a butcher’s knife, resulting in 11 people requiring medical attention. While this was not an active shooter situation, the incident — in addition to other recent violent incidents at other schools around the country — increased concern about the potential dangers of emergency situations at the University.
To prepare students and faculty for an active shooter on campus, DPSS expanded their offer for safety presentations upon request. These presentations are currently not mandatory for all faculty members, but requests are accepted year-round and can be made by any student organization or staff unit.
DPSS spokeswoman Diane Brown wrote in an email interview DPSS gave several dozen active shooter threat presentations in 2016. Brown also noted DPSS expanded its active shooter education materials, though requests for presentations have remained fairly consistent over the last semester.
“We have been training for the ‘Run, Hide or Fight’ protocol for a couple of years,” Brown wrote. “Last semester, we added to our materials for the training, creating the UM video on the web and revising the postcard that highlights the basics. Requests for presentations have continued to be steady.”
DPSS encourages the “Run, Hide, Fight” protocol, which has been the focus of its training over the past couple of years. This method instructs onlookers to use an escape path to move away from the imminent threat, which is taught as the first and best option on many college campuses, including Ohio State. The message “Run, Hide, Fight” was sent out to students via text during the November attack on the Ohio State campus.
“Run, Hide, Fight” protocol educators advise if leaving the scene is not possible, hiding should be the next response, which would involve locking and securing doors, creating barricades and remaining quiet, out-of-sight and with your cell phone on silent. As a last resort, fighting may be necessary to disrupt or incapacitate the shooter. If fighting is the only available option, it's best to be aggressive, provide distractions and disarm the shooter.
Brown said incoming freshmen in each new student orientation last summer as well as fall orientation learned the protocol.
Many students, however, still don’t feel prepared. LSA freshman Sam Allen was not sure about the proper response in an active shooter situation, despite having gone through the training last summer.
“Honestly, I’m not sure about the official protocol,” she said. “I feel like there is a general idea of staying hidden, but I wouldn’t have any official plan if I found myself in a situation that. I guess I haven’t really thought about it.”
Research released by the Harvard School of Public Health faculty in 2015 found mass public shootings have steadily increased over the last five years. According to Everytown, a gun safety lobbying group, there have been more than 200 school shootings since 2013, 47 percent of which took place on college or university campuses.
DPSS has updated its presentations as recently as last semester to include more training materials. Additions include a UM active shooter response video, available on the DPSS website, that details how to appropriately respond to an active shooter situation, as well as revisions to the postcard that highlights the basics of response protocol.
Amir Baghdadchi, communications director for the University Housing Administration, said residence hall student staff receive training on how to respond to an active shooter situation through the DPSS Building Incident Response Team. The training also teaches residential staff how to respond to a variety of emergency situations. BIRT also offers a refresher course in emergency situation response, which is offered in the winter term.
“BIRT training discusses safety (and) security for the staff and residents using best practices from emergency first response disciplines,” Baghdadchi said. “All training is conducted by DPSS officers and DPSS Community Liaisons.”
Staff units make up a majority of the presentation requests, but presentations are also popular among large student organizations. Safety presentations are currently optional and by request only, but DPSS Chief of Police Robert Neumann encourages all students, faculty and staff to be informed, either by viewing the website and video information or attending an in-person presentation.
“Immediate, decisive action on the part of those facing such a situation saves lives, and excellent training is easily accessible,” Neumann said.
Neumann also warns students to remain vigilant and prepared for any possibility, either on- or off-campus.
“It is an unfortunate reality that we as individuals and a community need to think of preparation for active violence events in much the way we do for fires and severe weather,” Neumann said. “While the chances of one facing such a situation are very remote, they can occur at any time, in any place, with little or no warning.”