Campus safety plans to offer shooting response training

Carson Bonner, Campus Carrier news editor

Chandler Smith, Campus Carrier staff writer

Berry College Police officers stand guard as the crowd files into Saturday’s football game. Katelynn Singleton | Campus Carrier

Since last spring, Campus Safety has been conducting staff advisory training seminars to help prepare and train faculty and staff for how to safely respond to and prevent a shooting event on campus. In light of the recent shooting at the University of North Carolina (UNC), there have been over 10 requests for sessions, according to Berry College Chief of Police Ryan Chesley. These trainings teach staff and faculty how to respond if a shooting is taking place and how to handle the aftermath and student response.

According to Chesley, the trainings provide context of the importance of training, as well as the best established method for handling a shooting event and how you should adapt your response based on the surrounding environment and situation.

“If studying previous events has taught us anything about survival and minimizing casualties during these events, then a clear lesson has been that prevention and early intervention is better than any response,” Chesley said. “Know the space. Think through what you might do if you found yourself needing to leave it or create a safe shelter there.  I also think that it is important to be mindful about things present that cause us to feel weary or strike us as outside of normal.”

Much of the training is conducted in groups to have a less formal setting and promote more conversation and strategizing, with enthusiastic response and attendance. 

“We’re preparing faculty and staff for an event that we hopefully won’t ever have to deal with,” Assistant Vice President of Campus Safety and Land Management Gary Will said. “We’re teaching them environmental awareness, like ‘Am I in a room where I can lock the door? Can I open a window and go out that way? What can I use as a weapon?’ There’s things like that, and then at the end, we do a question and answer.”

So far, the sessions have not been open to students. However, there will soon be designated sessions directed toward the student population. According to Associate Dean of Students Lindsey Norman, this will be a beneficial way of helping students be informed and prepared for any scenario. 

“I think the reason they’re doing [in person sessions] is sometimes students don’t read their emails and this is just more opportunity for them,” Norman said. “They’re probably taking a comprehensive approach to get as many people informed as possible and then targeting individual groups as well.”

Student interest in these sessions is high, with the general consensus being that while Berry is a safe campus, most institutions don’t seem to take these threats seriously enough. They want to know what tools are at their disposal and what actions they can take to survive a conflict. Students want to know what steps they can take to be more personally responsible, and ways that they can help themselves and others in a crisis. Another concern students have is what Campus Safety’s response might look like in the case of an emergency. 

“What’s important is knowing what to do during and after an event like that,” Norman said. “Barricading doors, knowing your exits, all of those are tools that can be lifesaving. And when the police come to your door, knowing whether it’s the police or not is important. If that’s ever a question, you can call the Welcome Center and ask if it’s an officer or someone else and they’ll be able to confirm.”

According to Gary Will, campus safety and police are open to providing information to students and faculty about ways to handle crises on campus, and will continue communicating alerts as they arise. However, students like junior Dylan Swan feel as though communication up to this point has been insuffiencent and needs to have more information. 

“I want to know what Berry’s physical actions are to deal with a situation,” Swan said, “When they send a Berry alert out, it shouldn’t be so vague.”            

In an effort to provide cohesive and reliable information, Campus Safety will be providing dates and times for student attendance to these safety sessions. These will be sent out via email in the coming months. 

“We don’t need to stoke panic or create an environment of fear, but we do need to open the floor to honest conversations about risk and possibilities,” Chesley said. “I mean this in a context greater than Berry College.  A terrible event could happen anywhere and we are always better prepared for a crisis if we have considered its possibility before and to at least some  degree mentally prepared for it.”

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