Editorial: Urgency needed in approaching school shooting preparedness

On Friday morning, as some of us were just waking up and others were sitting in class, we learned about a shooting at Northern Arizona University that killed one person and injured three. As we talked in the newsroom, we were shocked.

Northern Arizona University is the third school shooting on an American campus in eight days. Now, more than ever, we wondered, “What would happen if that were here?”

And then, just hours later, a student was shot and killed at Texas Southern University. Another man was injured. In 2015, there have now been 47 school shootings in the United States.

Quite frankly, we have no idea what to do in the event of a campus shooting. These horrific incidents happen to students just like us at an astonishing frequency and we’re worried about what we and other students would do.

But if the conversation to prepare us isn’t happening now — and hasn’t happened yet — then when will it? There are just too many basic logistical questions unanswered that we need to ask.

If you’re on the Quad do you go into the nearest classroom building? Run home? How are students, professors, TAs, faculty and staff informed of an active shooter? How are people informed of a campus lockdown?

The University of Illinois Police Department — and the Champaign and Urbana Police Departments for that matter — do an excellent job of protecting the campus community. 44,000 plus students go to and from classes, practices, bars and various activities with little worry each day. And we can rely on the police to keep us safe when they know about a crime.

But in the event of a campus shooting, the police often have to play catch-up. And what do students do in the meantime?

Skip Frost, UIPD Deputy Chief of Police,ch said the department trains endlessly for “a day we hope will never occurs.” We truly appreciate that, but that training should be highly publicized to the University and the students attending it.

Right now the University’s advice is “run, hide or fight,”ch which is not only vague, but still leaves us with questions. Who tells students a shooting is happening and when? There is the emergency alert system, but how quickly will those be sent out? There may be information on posters around academic buildings, but a fair amount of us were never informed of the protocol in the case of a school shooting by professors or TAs in class.

Frost said in 2014 former Chancellor Phyllis Wise and former Provost Ilesanmi Adesida chrecommended that information about how to respond to a shooter should be included in class syllabi, but the recommendation was never implemented.

This requirement and talking to and training students are necessary to ensure our safety; plus these things could easily be done during syllabus week.

Following instruction on exactly what to do during a shooting, students could ask questions they may have on emergency procedures — considering all of the unknowns currently, there are probably many things students want cleared up.

We hope our university is never faced with a school shooting or similar emergency, but we should at least answer the “what if’s” before it’s too late.