Director of Campus Safety Mark Welker and Campus Safety Officer Dan Robinson stress that campus officers do not carry guns, but they are trained in the event of an active shooter on campus.
“We want everybody to understand that [school shootings] are a very survivable event. The person with the gun does not have all the power,” Illinois State Trooper Jason Wilson said. “You have a lot of great options available to you. Hopefully, you’ve already pre-planned a few different things and then you have the wherewithal to follow through.”
Wilson has been giving training sessions on active-shooter protocol since 2012. He now works with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to give seminars on and emergency procedure titled “Run. Hide. Fight.” The program is currently used by Knox College as well.
The odds of mass shooting at Knox are slim, as the Federal Bureau of Investigation identified institutions of higher education to account for 7.5% of mass shootings that occur in the U.S. However, Wilson believes the deadliness of these types of events merit advanced training in order to minimize potential casualties.
“Run. Hide. Fight. It’s saying exactly what we’re trying to teach. If there is an active shooter or active killer that’s in the area that you’re in. The first thing we would love for you to do, if it’s safe to do so, is actually evacuate the area. If that’s not an option, then we want you to be able to hide,” he said. “Hiding isn’t just a matter of hiding and hoping, we will also wish to actively barricade a room.”
Knox has adopted “Run. Hide. Fight.” Both Welker and Robinson have had extensive emergency response training. Robinson now teaches a 90-minute emergency response course to different staff members.
While Campus Safety emphasizes the statistically slim likelihood of an active shooter situation occurring at Knox, the staff has a clear idea of how communication would progress and how safety measures would be enacted. The office responds to calls by sending officials to investigate the particular scene in an attempt to verify an issue; especially in regards to reports of gunfire. If a singular report is verified or if there have been several unverified reports of an emergency event, the staff makes a quick decision on whether or not to send a notification via the Knox Alert System.
“One part of the message may say there is unconfirmed reports of an active shooter. It would say if you’re off campus, do not enter the campus. If you are on campus follow Run. Hide. Fight,” Robinson said.
Since Campus Safety does not carry weapons, the team is taught not to put themselves in danger and to instead go into an observe and report mode. The Galesburg Public Safety department is then called immediately.
At this point, the officers of the Galesburg Police Department would arrive at the scene where they would act as armed defendants for the Knox community. At their discretion they may call for help from external sources, whether at a city, county or state level. According to Welker, before the Columbine shooting, law enforcement was trained to wait for backup and engage the situation once a large team was established.
“We learned a lot from Columbine because it was so tragic. And what we learned about law enforcement at the state and federal level was that we’ve got to change the way we do business here in an active shooter situation,” Welker said.
According to Welker, the new procedure for armed officers in the event of an active shooter situation is to continuously move toward the shooting. Their first priority, even if injured victims need aid or if a single officer lacks any back-up, is to neutralize the assailant.
“We were even trained at some point to walk over wounded, screaming, crying people to move towards the shooter, because that’s the most important thing you can do Ñ is to stop the shooting,” Welker said.
Robinson emphasized an underlying statistic which strongly reinforces this logic: on average, a person is a casualty every 15 seconds during an active shooter incident, so every second is valuable.
During the Parkland shooting that occured at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Feb. 14, Wilson observed that many valuable parts of the Run. Hide. Fight. method were disregarded. He also believed that the officials used older lockdown procedures that included keeping students idle in huddled groups.
“I observed that it seemed that none of the doors were locked [at Parkland]. The doors should have been locked,” Wilson said. The second thing I noticed was that all the students were huddled in one corner. Unfortunately, active shooters have a very high fire to hit target ratio. It’s usually around 8 percent of the rounds that they shoot actually hit their intended target. Most of the time that’s because the targets that they’ve been able to identify were large groups of students huddled in the corner.”
According to Wilson and Robinson, there hasn’t been a documented case of a mass shooter penetrating a locked door. Furthermore, Robinson believes doors during a mass shooting should be barricaded with desks and filing cabinets the second an active shooter has been identified.
When asked to assess law enforcement response at Parkland, Welker and Robinson were hesitant to point fingers despite the media storm surrounding the Bowland Sheriff department. They believed it was too soon to speculate on Parkland without having all the facts.
“I think everybody has seen pictures and reports of the deputy waiting. That kind of goes against what I talked about. I don’t know exactly how long it took to get there. I don’t have all those details that usually come out months after investigations occur. So I think it’s too soon to make too many judgments about Parkland,” Welker said.
Welker also explained how being in chaotic situations could cause officials to have tunnel vision. He believes that training is the best thing enforcement officers can rely on.
At Knox, training comes in the form of emergency management exercises Ñ so far, Campus Safety has completed two. One included a hazardous material spill and the other involve a potentially violent intruder. During the simulations, Campus Safety works in conjunction with local safety forces as they perform real-time exercises to better navigate obstacles in communication.
“We were able to successfully complete the exercises. We learned some things and put that in an after-action report. I think I made an announcement to the campus as well. So we were trying to do something there in terms of training with senior staff on campus and then grow that in the future and have others involved,” said Robinson.
As of yet, students at Knox have not been incorporated into any emergency evacuation simulations. In an email, Campus Safety stated the following about plans to do so:
“The short answer is not in the immediate future. However, we conduct an emergency preparedness exercise each year and could certainly explore doing just that,” Welker said.