May 25, 2018

How Webster would react to an active shooter

In a recent article, ABC News reported there have been 47 gun-related incidents on college campuses in the U.S. in 2015. The most recent shooting took place at Northern Arizona University Oct. 9, where one person was killed.

Of the 47 shootings, 26 were classified as attacks that resulted in injury or death, ABC News reported in the same article.

In the wake of the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, Rick Gerger, the Director of Public Safety at Webster University said he believes students need to take a proactive approach to educating themselves on campus emergency protocol.

“It’s a level of involvement that the individual has to take and concern themselves with their own security,” Gerger said. “We could put all the security measures in place that we want with an unlimited budget. But if it’s not executed by the individual, all that system we put money into is [of] no value.”

Student David Lambus said he was unaware of the appropriate procedures to follow if an active shooter appeared on campus.

“I know nothing at all [about the protocols],” Lambus said. “So I guess that means they didn’t inform us enough about the situation.”

Crisis response

The crisis response page on the Webster University website outlines possible scenarios in the case of an active shooter on campus. In the event of an active shooter inside a building, students are encouraged to first find a classroom and to lock themselves inside. Once the door is locked, students should barricade the doors by stacking tables, chairs and any other materials to impede the attacker’s path. Once the room is secure, students should call public safety and 911.

Keeping students informed

Webster Alerts is listed on the official school website as the university’s preferred emergency mass-notification service, available free to current students, faculty and staff. By registering an active phone number and email, recipients are notified of immediate concerns on campus. Webster Director of Public Relations Patrick Giblin said the Webster Alerts system is a resource that too many students fail to utilize.

“Students really need to check the information they put into Webster Alerts,” Giblin said. “They have to get into the habit of, at the start of every school year, to log back in and make sure their information is correct.”

Webster University’s official guidelines for active-shooter scenarios can be found by using the keywords “crisis response” on the school’s website. Quick links to individual topics can also be found in the lower right-hand corner of the Webster Connections homepage.

Gerger said all students should be going to the site and acquainting themselves with the proper steps to follow. He also said he believes students need to be consciously aware of their environment.

“It takes a level of personal involvement to know your surroundings,” Gerger said. “To know when I go into this building, I know the doors are set up this way, and these are my escape routes. You should consciously be doing that as you are going through buildings and going to the first day of class.”

The role of public safety

Public safety officers are not permitted to carry weapons or engage a hostile intruder at Webster University. Instead, their role is to guide students and provide information to the police, Gerger said.

“The directive is they are to confirm an active shooter, either by eyesight or their ears if they are hearing gunshots,” Gerger said. “They need to communicate what they hear, what they see, direction of travel if they can get that. And they need to direct the people evacuating.”

Leaders in the Office of Public Safety at Webster work with other St. Louis-based colleges in a system called the Emergency Manager’s Consortium. Giblin is also the representative of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) for the university.

Areas for improvement

In 2014 the Missouri General Assembly passed a law establishing the Active Shooter and Intruder Response Training for Schools (ASIRT) program. ASIRT requires public grade schools in the state to participate in simulated active-shooter drills to be conducted by law enforcement officials. ASIRT drills are mandatory for Missouri grade schools, but does not extend to the collegiate level.

The last time Webster University participated in an armed intruder drill was during a tabletop exercise conducted Aug. 9, 2013, Gerger said in an email. The exercise was orchestrated in conjunction with the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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