With the recent school shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a plethora of safety concerns have been gaining national attention. Lowell’s student and faculty bodies need to come to terms with the fact that any given day, there could be an active shooter on campus. And they must be ready to survive. Some of the most important questions students are now presented with is just how safe is UMass Lowell’s Campus, and moving forward, do they know what to do during an active shooter emergency?
University Massachusetts Lowell Police Department’s Officers Will Edmond and Jeff Connors had some key tips on what students should do during an active shooter emergency. The first of which, if any suspicious activity is observed amongst peers in their social media accounts, personality changes or violent behaviors, immediately notify someone. “The Florida shooter had homicidal behaviors all over his social media. There were red flags everywhere,” says Edmond. If someone sees a red flag, report it immediately. They would not be getting this person in trouble. UMLPD has staff that they will send to anyone at any location if they are going through a difficult time. If any suicidal behaviors are detected, this person needs to know that they have someone to calm them down and talk to them. This could save lives.
As for the situation of being in class while an active shooter is at large, remember these three basic steps:
1. Run: If there is an escape route, get out immediately. Leave belongings behind and go. Do not move wounded people, and prevent others from coming into the area.
2. Hide: If unable to evacuate, find a safe spot away from the shooter’s view. Think what they are thinking. They are going to go for the easiest most visible targets. Turn phones off and be as quiet as possible.
3. Fight: If options 1 and 2 are not possible to complete, fight back. Be aggressive, throw and fling things, yell and scream to disorient them, and improvise with make shift weapons. A book, something heavy, pencils, pens, anything sharp. And one chooses to do this, do not hesitate. Commit to actions. This is a life or death situation.
After law enforcement arrives, Officers Edmond and Connors advise students to remain calm, follow all instructions given to them, drop items, keep their hands up and refrain from screaming or yelling. There are very educational videos on YouTube that walk through the steps of what to do during an active shooter emergency.
Some other points of concern that Edmond and Connors brought up is the fact that this particular shooter in Parkland, Florida pulled the fire alarm, thus getting as many victims into the hallway as possible. Be wary of this. If it does not seem right, do not move. The Parkland shooter also left a classroom, went away for about 10 minutes, then came back to that same classroom and started shooting again. “They could come back. If you can get out, you get out. You need to think survival,” said Connors.
When it comes to moving forward, Connors is a huge believer in gun safety. Instead of being afraid of these weapons, everyone should learn the basics and know how to use them. Edmond brought up a valuable point that even if gun control laws were to crack down, and every AR-15 in the country was taken and destroyed, killers are still going to find a way to kill. “Whether it be with a bomb, or some other illegally bought weapon, we must be ready and prepared no matter what,” said Edmond.
Richard Wood has been the director of Life Safety and Emergency Preparedness at UMass Lowell for 5 ½ years. He reassured that among other schools, UMass Lowell ranks higher in emergency preparedness. The campus is a very open campus, which works in favor of the victims in an active shooter type situation. The buildings all have several exits, and it is not a confined space like a high school. UMass Lowell also holds quarterly active shooter drills, and courses that students can sign up for that aid in self-defense and survival basics. Wood also backs up Edmond’s and Connors’s advice that people must run and hide for safety before fighting back.
Richard Lemoine is UMass Lowell’s executive director of Administrative Services and Environmental & Emergency Management. “We aren’t in it by ourselves, we’re in collaboration with state officials. We have thousands of faculty and students that we need to care for, and we are well aligned with risk assessment and management experts to make sure they get the care they deserve,” said Lemoine. Wood and Lemoine both demonstrate that there is a template that the university uses for reactions to any type of emergency, whether it be an active shooter, a fire, a natural disaster or loss of electrical power.
“We gear up for all of these, so that our response is not decentralized, and so we know what to do in any emergency situation,” says Lemoine. “I am also pleased to say that I have full faith in our student community. The culture here is very supportive of emergency preparedness, and I just want students to know that if they ever see something, they must come forward and let officials know and become aware of a potential problem arising.”
As for students feeling safe on campus, the overall consensus is that UMass Lowell is a pretty safe school. Daisy Ruiz is a senior at UMass Lowell. She has been going here for three years, and while she admits Lowell in itself is not the safest city, she feels safest when she is on campus. She said, however, in moving forward, the school should offer a lot more gun safety classes. “It’s not just about shooting, I’m talking about basic life skills. Take the Boston Marathon Bombing for example. After the deed was done and you had all these people lying around bleeding to death, others didn’t know what to do. They tried applying make-shift tourniquets to people who were bleeding out, but they weren’t done properly. If they had basic survival skills, then maybe there wouldn’t have been so many deaths. Maybe people could have been saved.”
Lowell is already as safe as it’s going to get. There are staff in charge that are educated and know what to do in emergency situations. They have skilled first responders, more than 50 students training to be EMS and classes that faculty take to prevent and learn what to do during an active shooter emergency. However, what happens next lies in the hands of the students. It may be a safe campus, but just look at Parkland, Florida. They were voted the safest city in Florida last year, and now they are home to one of the deadliest school shootings of the century.
Going forward, students need to know what to do. If someone is seen exhibiting suicidal or homicidal behaviors, step up and tell someone. It could be an RA, a professor or even UMLPD. Lives could be saved if one does this. Secondly, take a class or a course in basic survival tips. They host them in Nashua N.H. and on campus. Look around, and take the time out of the day to learn how to possibly save a life one day. Educate oneself in order to protect oneself.