Surviving an active shooter incident

By Madi Rapella
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CSUMB faculty and students come together to listen to Chief Earl Lawson and Detective Heather Murphy’s advice on surviving an active shooter event. Photo by Madi Rapella.

As shootings become ever more frequent, the University Police Department (UPD) at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) are buckling down to further spread safety awareness. Students must be prepared if there is an on-campus shooter. Student Affairs invited UPD members, Chief Earl Lawson and Detective Heather Murphy to give a presentation at the Student Center on procedures for evacuations, sheltering-in-place and lockdowns. The presentation also served as a Q&A session between students and UPD.

Although CSUMB’s step-by-step video on how to prepare for an active shooter earned 150,000 views, Chief Lawson and Detective Murphy believe they must continue to inform the student population with their informative presentation that hones in on the three major options for students: run, hide and fight. However, Detective Murphy emphasized that fighting an active shooter should be the last resort. If your surroundings are safe, do not stop running until you have completely left the situation and if possible try to keep buildings, cars or others objects between you and the threat.

If running is not an option, resort to creating a stronghold in the room you are in. Students should move away from doors and windows; they should also make a barricade out of tables, bookshelves and chairs. If the first two options are not possible, the UPD advises to fight the shooter—preferably in a group—and to disorient the shooter by being as loud of possible.

One fellow faculty member inquired about whether or not we should take serious actions or simply wait it out if students happen to receive another “suspicious person on campus” alert. Lawson replied, “the most important thing to do is to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. There is not much else you can do until we have further details.”

This question brought about another concern from a faculty member who asked, “When should we expect to receive more information regarding the ‘suspicious person’ alert?”

“Well, there are so many factors in deciding how much information we should share because we do not know if the suspect is also receiving these OTTERalerts. If that is the case, then it would be much harder to track them down and resolve the issue,” said Lawson.

Some students and faculty may also be confused about the difference between a lock-down and a shelter-in-place. When the school is on lock-down, it means that there is an immediate threat. Students should stay where they are, lock their doors and be prepared to stay put for awhile. A shelter-in-place means that there is no immediate threat; students should still remain inside and close the windows. Students can continue to engage in indoor activities.

In addition, Detective Murphy emphasized to never hesitate to report to questionable, suspicious, or inappropriate behavior to the UPD. She suggests to do everything you can to be aware on-campus such as signing up for OTTERalert—even sign your family up—and to always “know your survival actions: run, hide and fight”.

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