Looking at preventative measures one year after the last active shooter drill
The last active shooter drill at Saint Joseph’s University was held in January 2016 in an effort to see how the procedure could be improved if an incident occured.
However, those who are new to Hawk Hill this year have not gone through the steps of what needs to be done if an active shooter comes onto campus.
“We concentrated on all the classrooms and we sent out an emergency notification announcing that we have an active shooter drill and please lock the classroom doors,” said Michael Boykin assistant director of administration.
Boykin explained how they had Public Safety officers go around the buildings to make sure all classrooms were following the correct procedure.
“They [the officers] recorded information as to whether or not the doors were locked, whether or not the information was received, and timeliness of the receiving of that information,” Boykin said.
Public safety found many issues with the classrooms and the drill itself. Public Safety had to address the locking of doors in classrooms, according to Boykin.
Ruben Mendoza, Ph.D., assistant professor of decision and system services, said it was necessary to know how to lock the doors in response to emergencies.
“Unfortunately, the climate is such that every now and then I get into a classroom and I think about what would I do if the situation arose, what would I do in this classroom,” Mendoza said.
Public Safety also found a delay to the phone calls to classrooms and how people could feel safe even if they are not in the a well-protected classroom.
“There was a delay when some classrooms received the message because it is an audible call to the classrooms,” Boykin said.
When the text messages were sent out to parents, they were unsure as to what school the emergency notification was sent from.
“For parents and for other folks who receive the notifications, we needed to make sure whenever an emergency text message is sent out, it specifically has SJU or Saint Joseph’s University attached to it so that people who see it know that it is from Saint Joseph’s University,” Boykin said.
“We increased the number of telephone lines to make the phone calls to the classrooms quicker,” Boykin said. “Public safety made ourselves available to anyone to go out and do safety evaluations of the location and we already do a monthly check and test of our emergency notifications.”
Nate Fioravante, ’20, thinks it is an important thing to educate everyone on campus about what to do if an incident occurs, just like the importance of educating kids about the dangers of smoking and alcohol consumption.
“I feel pretty scared, honestly, because if someone actually came and attempted to shoot people on campus, I think everyone would be kind of lost and in a frenzy,” Fioravante said. “I guess it would be good to educate us at orientation or even when we first move in, just to teach us in case an event like that occurs so I would feel a little safer.”
The university hasn’t had a drill in 2017 because it takes a lot of resources to conduct a drill on such a big scale, but there was a “tabletop exercise,” a meeting held to discuss how effective the drill procedure is now.
“This year we concentrated on having a tabletop, which was conducted in January for the entire university, where we go through and test the entire emergency plan trying to identify gaps and stuff just like we did last year,” Boykin said.
Public Safety is thinking of new ways to improve the active shooter drill and make sure all students, faculty, and staff are safe.
“We do not have the resources to do the full blown drill throughout the university. Instead we may do a drill for each academic building,” Boykin said. “It’s not that we aren’t looking at the lockdown piece or the active shooter piece, it’s just that we are looking at other portions of our emergency preparedness.”
Boykin said that he doesn’t know when the next drill will be, but they are always thinking of new ways to improve the drill that is already in place.
“I cannot actively tell when we will have another drill. There is a lot that goes into it and I do not know if we can get one in by the end of the spring semester,” Boykin said.
Instead of being concerned about the fact that St. Joe’s hasn’t had a drill this year, Mendoza chooses to focus on the fact that the university decided to have a drill.
“I have been here for 13 years and we have only had it once, so I think rather than think about not having one, I like the fact that we did,” Mendoza said.
Students can log onto The Nest under “School Services” if they are curious or concerned as to what they should do if an incident on campus occurs.