Resident Halls Association discusses active attacker scare with DPSS guest speaker

Thursday, March 21, 2019 - 11:37pm

DPSS Officer Lt. Bryan Baker lectures about active attacker preparedness at the Residence Hall Association meeting Thursday evening.

DPSS Officer Lt. Bryan Baker lectures about active attacker preparedness at the Residence Hall Association meeting Thursday evening. Buy this photo
Zachary Goldsmith/Daily

The University of Michigan Residence Halls Association hosted their weekly meeting on Thursday evening in the Couzens Residence Hall multipurpose room. The major highlight of the night was a presentation from Bryan Baker, DPSS lieutenant and liaison to the Division of Student Life, about how to handle events similar to Saturday’s active attacker scare.

Baker was originally scheduled to talk for twenty minutes, but the concerns of RHA assembly took up over ninety minutes of the meeting.

One RHA member brought up her concern of not receiving information from the University. Instead, she found out most of her information through group messages and social media. Baker addressed this issue and expressed his concern over students receiving inaccurate information.

“Information from unverified sources should not be shared,” Baker said. “How many of you all on Saturday heard something or got something in a GroupMe or in some form of communication that was not accurate? Pretty much everybody in this room. That’s a huge problem that we have to navigate.”

Baker also gave advice for how to deal with reports of an active attacker on the move. He said if there are no police present, there is little reason to fear the attacker entering your residency.

“If you look outside and there was not a police car around, there’s a good chance that threat is not coming to you,” Baker said. “If you go back to the videos, to the pictures from Saturday, State Street from William all the way past Madison was full of police cars, ambulances and fire trucks.”

Baker understood the cell phone towers were slower than usual and urged students to sign up for multiple outlets, such as the Michigan app or the DPSS app, for emergency alerts.

He also directed members to the official DPSS website for information on dealing with active attackers as well as means to contact them via texts.  

Baker clarified what an official message from the law enforcement would look like.

“We are never going to issue something that says ‘all clear’ unless we are affirmatively telling you there is no longer a threat, it is all clear, buildings are open, you are free to resume normal activity,” Baker said.

Breanna Boersma, RHA vice president for internal relations and Art & Design sophomore, was pleased with the meeting and was glad to have had Baker speak to the assembly to ensure the information regarding Saturday’s events as well as possible future active attackers will spread faster.

“For the e-board, I thought it was very important for us to bring DPSS aboard and just talk to the assembly because we have a hard time getting information directly to the council and then having them get it to all the residents,” Boersma said. “We thought it was important that we could give it to our forty-some assembly members and then they can disperse it throughout the residence halls. We wanted to act as quick as possible, so they knew that we were aware of their emotional health and any problems they were having.”

LSA freshman Olivia Ngo asked Baker how the University will alert students moving forward. He assured her actions were being considered but nothing has been solidified.

“What I assume, and this is not a clear answer, the University is looking into it,” Baker said. “What we will do is likely create an app for action report which is basically says ‘this is everything that we know that happened, this is what we need to do, and then these are the steps we will implement.’”

Ngo was happy with the meeting and is curious to see how DPSS and the University will handle similar situations in the future.

“I was surprised, but pleased at the amount of questions that the assembly had for him,” Ngo said. “I’m looking forward to hearing more from the University in terms of what changes are being implemented in terms of building and communications.”