In an active shooter situation, it often takes the actions of one or two people to subdue a gunman. Those who attended the Active Shooter Awareness training by the University Police Department (UPD) are now better prepared to act in a potentially dangerous situation.
On Tuesday, April 10, after a brief introduction by UPD Chief David Dugatkin, Officer William J. Shaw hosted a training open to all faculty and staff and students in Lecture Center 100 at 7 p.m. He spoke of the safeguards in place on campus, how to identify an active shooter, how to identify the warning signs of someone who is in distress and what to do in an active shooter situation.
“The world we live in today necessitates that we be prepared,” Dugatkin said.
Safeguards on campus include an indoor and outdoor notification speaker system, informacast telephone notification system, scrolling marquees, CCTV cameras to monitor different areas, card access control doors, blue light phones, the rave guardian app, a modern dispatch center/station and the NP Alert system.
UPD is also looking into implementing a Panic/Intrusion Building Alarm or a campus lockdown button. Additionally, UPD’s patrol vehicles are equipped for rapid response complete with breaching tools, plate carriers, ballistic shields, mobile data terminals, medical equipment and more. UPD may even use the vehicle as a means to enter a building if necessary, according to Shaw.
Dugatkin also added that there is no building that the officers cannot get into with a massive sledge hammer and crowbar contained in every patrol vehicle. Additionally, UPD is supported by the New Paltz Fire Department.
According to Shaw, some of the warning signs of an active shooter include research, planning and preparation that is inappropriate to their everyday life, intense interest or fascination with previous shootings, drastic changes in appearance or mood, withdrawal from regular patterns, sudden stop in use of prescribed medication and substance abuse.
Shaw encouraged the audience to report individuals that they think may be in crisis. An individual with concerns should notify UPD of any concerns, save any screenshots of inappropriate social media post and document any suspicious activity. Reports can be made by calling 845-257-2222, the anonymous tip line at 845-257-2230 or on the UPD website.
The UPD is trained in first aid, AED, combat tourniquet application and more. They also go through biannual firearms training and must recertify their tasers every year. Last year, they performed a lockdown drill in Wooster Hall.
“We’re trained to deal with real stress and how to react under that stress to save lives,” Shaw said.
The first priority in an active shooter situation is to stop the active shooter, even if it means stepping over someone who is hurt, according to Shaw. The second priority is to contain the incident. Then responders look to rescue the victims and provide medical assistance. Additionally, officers must work to preserve the crime scene in order to learn from the dangerous situation that has occurred and prevent it from happening again.
“We know that parents trust us to take care of their children when they come here and that’s the reason we exist,” Dugatkin said. “Because of that, the school takes [student safety] very seriously, supports their university police department and because of that we want to be out there all the time listening and watching.”
In the event of an active shooter, an individual has several options, the first being to run. If it is possible to safely escape an area where an active shooter is present, do so. If running is no longer an option, hide. UPD recommends hiding in a bathroom, because the doors lock and there is often no window from which a shooter can access you.
The next step is to prevent the shooter from entering the classroom and to “do whatever it takes to block the entry.” A belt can also be used to hold a door knob or hinge to prevent a door from opening. The last resort is to fight for survival. Be sure to turn off the lights and stay out of sight, silence any electronic devices, be quiet and listen for instructions from the mass communication systems on campus.
Upon arriving at the scene, UPD would respond to an active shooter with an immediate entry team to take the shooter down. If you encounter this team in your attempt to escape, keep your hands open and visible at all times and follow all officers’ commands. If possible, provide the officers with vital information such as a description or the location of the shooter.
Responding officers will search and clear all areas. Shaw warned the audience not to open the door even if they’re told they are a police officer. He said that if an officer wants to get in, they’re going to get in, so do not fall for any manipulation tactics performed by a dangerous individual.
Evacuation areas will also be established and all those present will be interviewed. Searches of persons will also be conducted for safety. Multiple agencies and specialized units will be on scene, as well as medical care areas.
Although there has never been a shooting on this campus, Dugatkin stresses the importance of preparation for the unthinkable.
“We want to let everyone on the campus know of the different avenues and routes that they can educate themselves on in regards to being aware in the event that there was an armed intruder or active shooter on the campus,” he said. “This type of training is a way of letting everyone know of different possibilities they can consider.”
Shaw said that it is important to be aware of your surroundings at all times, and to report any suspicious activity in your area and online immediately.
“We rely on you,” he said. “The police department is part of your community. We’re here to help you and you’re also here to help us.”