On Jan. 22, 2013, students at Lonestar Community College in Houston fled the scene of a shooting on campus. The shooting stemmed from an argument between two students.
According to CNN, there were more than 10,000 students on campus that day and they all evacuated the scene safely with only three wounded and the two young men sent to jail.
Recent shootings like the ones at Lonestar College and Sandy Hook Elementary have many schools, as well as colleges, examining evacuation plans.
At this time, Tyler Junior College has no emergency lock down procedures.
“We’re large. To evacuate a campus this size is a tremendous task and lock down a campus this size is almost impossible,” said Randy Melton, chief of Campus Police. “If you look at your campus, there are many buildings, quite a few buildings. You have all the public streets around here. To lock something…it’s a tremendous task.”
“Locking buildings down, it’s no magic thing. There’s no button in the office that I can push to lock all the doors in the building because we’re not set up that way,” said Melton. “To evacuate campus, we rely on a lot of communication. Our goal is to provide the safest community possible…that’s very important to us.”
Melton tells The Apache Pow Wow that there are a number of ways to communicate with the campus. The text alert system that students can sign up for through their Apache Access account is one way that Campus Police communicate with students.
“We have ways to communicate and we expect our students and employees that once they hear of an alert to get out in an orderly and safe manner to evacuate,” said Melton.
Another way of communication is through the telephone system. Every office at TJC has a telephone voice system that can alert teachers and students. Campus Police normally tests these phones and the Apache Alert system once a month after the city of Tyler finishes checking its system.
But there is one problem about the telephone system at TJC. Even though every office has a telephone, every classroom does not. That would mean that students and even teachers wouldn’t know what was going on if an alert was issued while they were in class.
There is a new type of technology that TJC Campus Police now has.
“We just recently got some software to where I can send a message to the website and anyone on tjc.edu or any page on our website, there’s a way I can send a message. A big red bar that goes across the top and it will scroll the message instantly,” said Melton.
In the even of a shooting, Melton said that students have the choice of staying in the classroom and remaining completely quiet or evacuating the building in an orderly and calm fashion. There is talk of a teacher training for events like a shooting and how teachers are to respond to such a situation.
“Just like every adult in the classroom, the teachers are going to be just as scared as everyone else. The students are not children, they are going to react with the fight or flight response,” said TJC student, Zach Lackey. “The teachers seem to only be trained to lock themselves in the room or a closet or a storage space. If a shooter is to go shoot up a building or just a classroom, it’s such a big school, someone is going to die.”
“I believe that all of our teachers and staff should attend training conferences to not only know what to do in case of a school shooting but also a fire, tornado, and other emergency procedures,” said Brittany Dossey, TJC student. “We look to them for guidance and they need to be able to guide us when chaos unfolds.”
Some students know what to do when in the event of an emergency.
“I would calmly search for an exit. If I see smoke I’d go the other way. I just my common sense,” said Shani Bishop, General Studies student at TJC.
Executive Director of Public Safety, Tom Johnson tells us that Campus Police are working on several situational plans in case of an emergency.
“No two emergencies or evacuations are exactly the same and one plan does not fit all scenarios.”
Campus Police is currently working on a “mock emergency training drill” using several public safety agencies as well as the students and employees, so students, faculty and staff will know what to do in case of any emergency on campus.
They will also be conducting a disaster tabletop exercise with the Executive Cabinet, working with IT to put speakers in the halls of the buildings, showing some critical safety videos to the faculty and staff during Professional Development and convocation.
Campus Police also plans to do another active shooter training for Campus Police officers as they had done previously last summer in the Ornelas Dormitories. They will also be replacing security guards with licensed Texas police officers on campus.
“Our intent is to set up a system that we can direct people on what to do depending on the circumstance and where they are. It is somewhat different than a fire alarm that uses the same basic tactics each time to evacuate,” said Johnson.
Johnson encourages all students and employees to take five minutes our of their time and go to Youtube.com and watch the video “Run, Hide, Fight” because it shows that if you can get of the building then it may be better to run and not “lockdown” or stay put, but it does depend on the situation.