Campus Cops Corner

Surviving the Shooter

Ken Hilte, January 19, 2012

The Department of Public Safety has repeatedly bragged about the effectiveness of our Student Urgent Response Force (SURF) Team. Although it’s difficult to measure a negative, we have a number of successes of which we are particularly proud.

 But what do you do if the “unthinkable” happens? The operative word is “out.”

1. Figure it out: We repeatedly hear surviving victims say things like, “I thought it was firecrackers,” or, “I thought it was a joke.” Gunfire often sounds like simple “popping,” and rarely sounds like it does on the movies or television shows. Be “situationally aware” and play “What if …?” At this point in our history, we can no longer believe it can’t happen here.

2. Get out: Part of being situationally aware is knowing your surroundings prior to the emergency. Is there a back door, window or alternate exit? Can you escape if the need arises? The hostage taker or attacker’s plan is weakest at the very beginning, that is, before you have been put at a disadvantage and under his control. Act quickly.

3. Call out: Sound the alarm at your earliest opportunity. When on campus, call 502-2911. These horrific incidents are usually over within minutes. With police officers on campus, you’re assured of a quick response. The sooner you call, the sooner we’ll get there. 

4. Hide out: If you can’t get out, try to hide in order to avoid being seen or heard. Be quiet, avoid detection and quiet all noise-making devices. During some shooting rampages, survivors played dead and are here to tell about it.

5. Spread out: You’re easier to control and attack when you’re all standing together. Spread out. Make the attacker deal with you one at a time. This may provide a good moment for you to act.

6. Take out: Last year, during the incident at Littleton, Colo.'s Deer Creek Middle School, the quick action of one bystander quickly put an end to the threat. Rather than the assumed “fight or flight” response, many of us simply freeze in the face of immediate danger.

Ken Hilte

Chief, PPCC Public Safety


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