By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer
A mass stabbing at Ohio State University Monday morning was the third violent attack at an American post-secondary institution in 2016, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Monday morning, an OSU student was shot dead by police after driving his car into several pedestrians on campus and then stabbing 11 people. The incident was originally reported as an active shooter situation by OSU’s emergency alert system “Buckeye Alert.” The Columbus campus was locked down during the incident, and classes were canceled for the rest of the day.
Baylor is involved in a national program out of Texas State University called ALERRT, Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, in which officers are trained on how to respond to emergency situations, including an active shooter on campus or an event similar to what happened at OSU on Monday.
Baylor Police Chief Brad Wigtil called the program “state of the art” and “one of the best training programs available.”
Wigtil said the Baylor Police Department does monthly training with its officers on how to handle active shooter situations. Once or twice a year, the department has simulation exercises using paintball-like devices for officers to practice engaging with threats in real-life scenarios, Wigtil said.
“I’m familiar with a lot of other universities and their tactical training, and we are tip of the spear when it comes to preparing that response,” Wigtil said.
On the Baylor Police Department website, there is a training video available for students on how to behave during an active shooter situation. The video focuses on three principles: run out, hide out or take out.
Wigtil said the police department is working with Baylor Law School to produce a video for students. The video will present real-life scenarios and show what to do in a situation with an active shooter as well as what police will do in that situation. Wigtil said he hopes the video will be available to students in the spring.
Leigh Ann Moffett, director of emergency management in the department of public safety at Baylor, stressed the need for community involvement in communication during emergency situations.
“It is really important for our constituents to understand that there is a dual responsibility in these situations,” Moffett said. “We have the police department who are doing all these drills, exercises and training, preparing to be able to respond to an incident, but there is also a responsibility on the faculty, staff and students to be able to feel confident in knowing what their options are and what they should do should a situation arise.”
Moffett said the main element of communication used in emergency situations is the Baylor Alert system.
Baylor utilizes text, email, Twitter, indoor notifications systems in close to 60 buildings on campus using speakers, and outdoor notification systems. Moffett said the indoor and outdoor systems are tested monthly. Other platforms available for use during emergency situations include Baylor’s website, the faculty staff page and the student page.
In reference to an incident on Oct. 5 in which some Baylor students received a text alert meant for students at another institution, Moffett discussed ways to tell if an alert is really from Baylor. She said Baylor always starts its messages with “Baylor Alert!,” and the alerts are also available at Baylor.edu/emergency. Emails containing alerts will come from Baylor@getrave.com.
On Oct. 6, there was an incident involving an off-campus shooting in which Baylor Alerts were used. Moffett said the following morning, about 20 staff members came together and talked through the events of the day and looked at what went well and where there needs to be improvement.
“We are actively engaged in obtaining current information and looking at how we can continue to improve the practices we do have in place,” Moffett said. “We collectively felt that our messaging and informing the community went very well and we were able to get the alert out efficiently. We were very pleased with the communication and how it went.”
Wigtil said he uses research from police chiefs from different universities, and one of his biggest takeaways is the importance of community awareness and involvement. He urges the Baylor community to always follow the “see something, say something” rule.
“The majority of these active shooter situations, there were incidents before the actual event where either friends, family, professors or someone saw things that were very disconcerting,” Wigtil said. “One message I like to give to our community is, please call us if you are aware of anything.”
Wigtil said there are two mechanisms in place for police to look at reports of suspicious activity. There is a Students of Concern Committee, and if it rises to a much higher level of concern, the Threat Assessment Group was set up in the past year for police to look at situations and assess and develop a plan to address those concerns.
“It all starts from getting information from the community,” Wigtil said. “ We need people willing to step up and get involved and be that caring community. If you let the police know, all the police are going to do is try to get that person the help that they need.”
In addition to utilizing information given by the FBI and Homeland Security about campus violence, Wigtil said the police department is in communication with universities that have experienced emergency situations firsthand.
Wigtil said members of the police department went to Virginia Tech this year and asked about the shooting on their campus in 2007. Wigtil said they gained useful information from their experience. Wigtil also said that he spoke with the police chief at the University of Texas at Austin following a shooting in a library in 2010.
“Response is critical, and communication is critical,” Wigtil said. “You want a tactical response. Get there as quick as you can; take out the threat; eliminate the threat.”
Wigtil said he is very pleased with Baylor Police Department’s response time.
“Our police can get to a situation very fast,” Wigtil said. “It is amazing, our response time. We are covering 700-800 acres max versus square miles. When you think of the density of officers we have on 700-800 acres, it is amazing how quickly we can get to a situation anywhere on campus.”