Run. Hide. Fight.
These three words were part of a tweet and a text alert sent to Ohio State University students Nov. 28 during an attack on its campus that left 11 hospitalized and the assailant — an Ohio State student — dead.
Because the Ohio State attacker used a knife and vehicle instead of a gun to harm other students, the incident caused many college and university police departments, including University of Maryland Police, to rethink ways to better educate community members and to amp up their own active threat response procedures, University Police Chief David Mitchell said.
While University Police already offer presentations to campus groups centered around what to do during an active shooting incident, the number of requests for these presentations has jumped up “exponentially” since the Ohio State attack, said Capt. Kenneth Ecker, the department’s emergency manager. To meet this demand, police are preparing to offer new active shooter training twice per month to students or faculty who want training faster than their academic department is requesting it, Ecker said.
This project is in the works, but Ecker said he expects it to be completed within the next month or so.
“All they have to do is request it,” he said, “and we’ll facilitate it in some form or fashion.”
The department is pushing for active shooting information to be included in the syllabi of all academic courses as well, and wants professors to go over safety protocol with their students as they are reviewing other parts of the syllabus on the first day of classes.
“The more knowledge [students] have, the better chance they have if they’re in one of these unfortunate incidents of coming out alive,” Ecker said.
While this university has not faced an active shooter situation, police arrested a 19-year-old student in 2012 who allegedly threatened on websites such as Reddit to go on a “shooting rampage.” The campus also descended into panic in October after two students reported to police that they saw a man on Route 1 holding an AR-15 rifle. Officials later discovered he was actually an ROTC member holding a rubber training rifle.
Even before the Ohio State incident, police were aware of the potential vehicles had to be weapons, Mitchell said, highlighting the locations of various sidewalk barriers around the campus. On football game days and during other special events on the campus, motorized vehicles driving toward the stadium are required to go through checkpoints and prove they have lawful intent to be there, he added.
“Quite candidly, [an active shooter] is the type of threat that keeps me up at night,” Mitchell said. “But I’m extremely confident that we’re as prepared as you can be for this type of threat.”
Before the semester began, police augmented their ability to respond to active threats by conducting live-simulation training in the new Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center, Ecker said.
The training, which took place Jan. 9, 12 and 13, involved the majority of the department’s 80 to 85 patrol officers, Ecker said. Officers used and shot paintball guns resembling the weapon they’d carry into an active shooter scenario, he said.
“We’ve used other weapons in the past, such as improvised explosive devices, just to give that visual and sound and even a little bit of a smell,” said Firearms Unit Commander Sgt. David Fields, who helped instruct the training. “So God forbid something like that happens, it wouldn’t have been the first time the officer experiences it.”
University Police occasionally conduct these “refresher” trainings in other campus buildings — typically during times when buildings are being renovated or during academic breaks, Ecker said.
As an emergency manager, Ecker said it’s his responsibility to reach out to campus departments and work with them to create an All-Hazards Plan, or a guidebook to how that department would handle an emergency. Every department on the campus should have a comprehensive All-Hazards Plan, Ecker said, noting that most do.
“The [University] Health Center has a very robust All-Hazards Plan, and one of the big reasons is because that’s where people are going to go in the event of an injury,” he said. “We’re pushing other departments to do the same thing.”
To help mitigate setbacks that might prevent an All-Hazards Plan from working properly, such as staff turnover within a given department, Ecker said he is asking university department heads to go over emergency protocol during monthly meetings.
“It’s one of those things where if you’re taught — [but] if you don’t refresh or utilize it at all — you’re gonna lose it,” he said.
Following the basic instructions of “Run. Hide. Fight.” is still a student’s best bet when faced with an active threat situation, Sgt. Rosanne Hoaas said. But University Police still intend to do what they can to ensure that students know police are prepared in the event of an attack.
“We’re always with the hope we never have to deal with something like this, but unfortunately, the threat’s always out there,” Mitchell said.