Active threat procedures essential on college campuses, but often goes unpracticed

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

While you were growing up, your schools likely carried out routine drills for emergencies such as fires and tornadoes. We all remember being reminded to walk, not run, to emergency exits and to line up outside for fire drills and to line the hallways, heads covered, for tornado drills. The scripts we use for there emergencies are embedded in our heads from years of practice and repetition. 

However, it might not be as likely that you have had to practice, or at least remember, what to do in the case that there is an active threat or any incident that presents an immediate threat to the campus community.

The recent shooting at Purdue University, in which one student was shot and killed by another student, demonstrated that there are still schools that do not have a solidified active threat procedure that is being presented and followed by students. During the shooting, some professors refused to lock doors or stop classes to ensure the safety of those in their classrooms, according to the Purdue Review. One professor even went as far as to make jokes about the shooter entering the classroom. 

With active threat situations becoming more frequent within schools, it’s just as alarming to know that, when an incident does arise, there are some schools that ignore or have not yet implemented standard response procedures.

Following the Purdue shooting, police officers from the University of Illinois Police Department met to discuss the University’s emergency plan, according to a Daily Illini report.

To ensure that students, faculty and staff are aware of the emergency plan, University Public Safety is requesting emergency and evacuation procedures to be outlined in class syllabi. UIPD hopes to make this mandatory as it should be. 

In addition to listing these procedures in class syllabi, professors should allot time on the first day of classes to practice active threat procedures. Talking about the active threat procedure and remembering it aren’t enough to make sure everyone remains safe in an emergency. Especially when every single room is different — some with glass doors, some without locks, even — it is important that each class is able to have a blueprint of what to do. What are students in auditorium lecture halls supposed to do when there are multiple ways to enter and exit the room? 

Aside from extra precautions taken by professors, the University should be more proactive, too. In addition to prior planning, the University should be constantly checking the emergency response infrastructure to make sure, for example, that all buildings and rooms are secure and can be placed under lockdown when there is a threat. 

We need to practice and implement active threat procedures, to the extent that, like tornado and fire drills, we won’t have to think twice about where to exit or what entrances to avoid. We’ll just do it.

But, unlike tornado and fire drills, we can’t assume that active threats are so uncommon that worrying about them or practicing for them would be extraneous. Having concern for active threats is essential, regardless of the institution or geographical area. 

And that’s exactly how we should be prioritizing our active threat procedures — as though something like this can happen anywhere, at anytime.