“Occasionally, life feels more like an action movie than reality,” states the narrator in a Department of Homeland Security-funded video. A man straight out of The Matrix walks into an office building and removes a shotgun from his backpack, opening fire on bystanders.
“If you are ever to find yourself in the middle of an active shooter event, your survival may depend on whether or not you have a plan,” says the narrator.
The video, a six-minute drill on the so-called run, hide or fight training now being distributed across the country to college campuses, office buildings and elsewhere, portrays a fictional active shooter event. In light of recent real-life events in San Bernardino, and just having crossed three years since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut where 26 were killed, Ventura County college campuses are making sure that, should anything happen, they are prepared.
Run, hide or fight means exactly what it says — in the event of an active shooter, those in the area should decide which option works best for them. Running to safety is the No. 1 priority; though, if not possible, hiding is the second. As a last resort, fighting by making use of objects (a fire extinguisher and chair used as examples in the video) may be your best option.
John Reid is the chief of police at California State University, Channel Islands. Reid has worked in higher education since 1992 and says that there has been an increased awareness of the need for readiness training.
“The last seven or eight years has been a turning point as far as individuals in higher education really understanding that this really is a threat,” said Reid. “Before, there was a predominant feeling that ‘I’m hearing about it and it’s not going to happen here,’ and I think that’s changed.”
Preparations at CSUCI have included relaying information to new students and faculty at the beginning of each semester, and regular training sessions involving laying out possible evacuation routes and reporting methods. Reid says, however, that prevention is the first layer of defense.
“We don’t want to see that event happen on our campus, but we’re not naive enough to think that it’s not possible,” said Reid. “The first layer is educating our staff and preparing our staff to be ready for it, both from a prevention and reaction standpoint.”
Reid says that introducing a “behavioral intervention team concept” assists in determining the mood of students on campus, bringing behavioral issues to light so that they may be addressed by counselors or medical staff.
On Tuesday, Dec. 15, a threat to the Los Angeles Unified School District, deemed credible, closed all schools in the district for the day. Ventura County Community College District Chief of Police Joel Justice says that though no threat was made to school campuses in Ventura County, officers were asked to be extra-visible to prevent possible “copycat” events.
Justice says that threats are extremely rare across the district (which includes Moorpark College, Ventura College, Oxnard College and the District Administrative Center), but the department holds regular conference training sessions for faculty, with plans to conduct training toward the end of January that will include the run, hide or fight training, and instruct incoming students to report suspicious activity and to be aware of their surroundings.
“Everybody is approaching this with open arms,” said Justice. “We want to protect the students, the faculty and the staff. I think it’s on everybody’s mind and I think it’s a huge priority for everybody right now.”
There are close to 38,000 students in the Ventura Community College District; CSUCI has approximately 5,100 students; LAUSD serves close to 650,000.
The Run, Hide or Fight video is available on YouTube.