LIMA — In an active shooter situation, particularly on a school campus, it’s vital for employees to be properly trained.
Thanks to a $350,000 U.S. Department of Justice grant Rhodes State College received in February, local university staff are able to attend programming to be better prepared if disaster strikes.
The grant program — called the Education, Communication, Assessment, Intervention, and Protection Plan — continues through September. The grant has funded presentations, public service announcements and fliers to curb and prevent campus violence.
On Friday, a small group of Rhodes State College employees learned crucial steps in responding to an active shooter.
The average active shooter event lasts 6 to 9 minutes. Police response time for such events is 8 minutes, said Mike Webber, the Education, Communication, Assessment, Intervention, and Protection Plan project coordinator.
“Seconds count,” Webber said. “It’s going to be over within minutes.”
“That’s sad, how fast it happens. And the response,” said Loni Reed, a preschool teacher at the Rhodes State child care center.
Those minutes are when staff can come in to intervene before police arrive. In it’s simplest terms, it’s best to run, hide, or, as a last resort, fight an active shooter. Webber went into detail of the Columbine High School shooting, which acted as a turning point to how people are training to shootings now. Quick intervention is key, Webber said. At Columbine, shooters roamed the school for more than 45 minutes.
What can be done
Melissa Griesdorn never has dealt with a violent situation during her two years as a Rhodes State employee. She attended the class as a precaution.
“My supervisor said it would be a good idea to attend because we get student complaints, anything from grades, discrimination,” said Griesdorn, an office assistant with the Department of Student Affairs. “I can be dealing with some irate students. … I’m the first person they see when they walk through the door, so I’m the first line of defense.”
The Columbine High School shooting occurred in April 1999 and left 10 dead. In the same month in 2007, the Virginia Tech massacre killed 32 people.
“The goal of the grant is to save lives by intervening before the active shooter can begin to injure and kill,” Webber said.
The ECAIPP program also hosts presentations that teach others how to identify and respond to campus threats and how to establish intervention teams. After the grant program is over, the presentations and tools created will be put on a website for any U.S. school to use. The grant program works separately from the Rhodes State Public Safety program.
Webber said he believes Rhodes State was a strong candidate for such funding because of the number of shootings on rural college campuses and the fact smaller schools often don’t have established the violence prevention programs of larger schools.
“Many of the larger universities already have effective procedures in place, but the smaller universities need those extra programs,” he said. “They don’t have the funding and the resources in place that many of the larger universities have.”