Unlike students, UWRF faculty and staff lack active shooter training, says police chief

Posted February 8, 2017

An active shooter on campus is a situation no university wants to encounter. However, if it does happen, some faculty and staff at UW-River Falls may not be as prepared as students, according to the campus police chief.

In 2014-2015, according to the FBI, of the total 40 cases of active shooters in the U.S., three happened on college campuses and resulted in the deaths of 10 people and the wounding of 13.

Over the years, the threat of an active shooter has become a greater possibility. Because of this, many kindergarten through high school students receive training on how to react in the event of a lockdown because of a shooter.

UWRF Police Chief Karl Fleury understands some faculty and staff may not have had the same training as many students did earlier on in their education.

“They practiced tornado drills, fire drills,” Fleury said. “They did not practice active shooter drills… The students’ exposure, that are coming into the campus, is substantially more than what our faculty and staff have had over the course of their life.”

English Professor Greta Gaard said she reviewed booklets and brochures regarding campus safety and couldn’t find any information on what to do in the case of an active shooter.

“It is not clear to me what the institution could do for an active shooter, nor is it clear to me that they have plans for what to do,” Gaard said.

Although the literature has not yet been made available, Fleury has confidence in his plans for an active shooter situation as well as the training and experience in his staff.

“We have things that are in place, we know how we are going to respond to an event, from the law enforcement side,” he said. “We’ve done training with the tactical teams coming in here and knowing the campus. Our officers have went to training that is sponsored by the FBI… We have things that are in place.”

While the security and safety of the UWRF campus community may lie heavily on Fleury’s shoulders, he said he realizes it is a team effort.

“Emergency preparedness, our emergency management team, works on many different aspects in keeping our campus safe and activating the emergency management system,” he said. “The police department has a role as far as responding to that incident and we have partnerships with various law enforcement agencies in the area for assistance.”

Brady Murphy, a UWRF junior, attended high school in Elk River, Minnesota, and received lockdown training during his time there.

“The training entailed you and the rest of your class, or whatever group you happened to be in, going to a designated space that was deemed safe. Typically, you were in a classroom, the teachers would lock the doors, turn off all the lights, then you huddle so that no one could see you in case there was a shooter,” Murphy recalled.

What Murphy remembers from training in high school mirrors what Fleury encourages in an active shooter situation.

“‘Run, hide, fight’ is the format that we use,” he said. “If you can flee and escape in a safe manner, do it. If you can’t, you hide. Try to find the most secure area, secure the door, barricade the room, turn off the ringer on your cell phone, turn the lights off… The fight component is you have to make a decision on whether you’re going to fight or not. That’s a conscious choice that you as an individual has to make.”

Discussions are in the works for Fleury and his staff regarding the best way to get the necessary information to campus.

“We’ll be meeting on that in the near future to determine if we’re going to do a videotape of the training and make that available online… My approach has been (to) get the faculty and staff trained and make them aware of what’s available, how to respond, how to react, because I know that the students coming in have had a lot of exposure and training to active shooter.”

Fleury said the campus police department relies heavily on the community and the case of an active shooter is no different.

“If they see something, say something, speak up, utilize our services, contact us,” Fleury said. “It takes all of us working together collaboratively to keep our campus safe.”