In light of a recent tragedy, Sam Houston State University students might be left wondering if there is a plan in place in case of an emergency on our campus.
News of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14, in which three faculty members and 14 students were killed by a former student with an assault rifle, is now an unfortunate reality of the times we are in.
However, the SHSU Emergency Management Office is prepared for the prevention of a crisis scenario and a plan of action in the case that an emergency occurs.
According to Director of Emergency Management David Yebra, Walker County Sheriffs, Huntsville Police Department, University Police Department and the SHSU emergency management team have met to discuss emergency action plans and have completed extensive training for crisis situations.
“We don’t get to pick the time, location or type of attack, so the emergency management team is always working on the ability to adapt and improve our methodology,” Yebra said.
There are plans in place for full-scale active shooter training for university staff and law enforcement during August of this year. Planning of the exercise has been in effect since February of last year.
“It will be validation that we can handle these situations,” Yebra said. “There will also be training on media briefing and after the fact operation in case of a tragedy, because even if there are not structural damages, there will always be psychological damages.”
According to Clinical Assistant Professor Linda James, the SHSU School of Nursing started training nursing students by simulation on how to care for victims of mass causalities as a first responder two years ago.
“In the past few semesters, we have moved to an interdisciplinary model and included Athletic Training Students and students in Homeland Security Studies on first responder response,” James said. “Students complete training before the simulation then participate in debriefing to discuss what went well, what didn’t, and what they learned. They also write using reflective journaling methods to further process the events.”
According to James, the Nursing faculty is self-trained using Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) courses, as well as, SHSU Active Shooter training online module.
“I have also attended face-to-face trainings offered at SHSU and multiple tabletop exercises on mass casualty situations where we have planned a course of action for the university,” James said. “I have also participated in the Walker County disaster exercise in 2017.”
Not all of these exercises are in response to active shooter scenarios, but also responding to natural disasters like hurricanes, tornados, etc., and man-made disasters such as fires.
There is a “students of concern” option on the SHSU Dean of Students website, in which students and faculty can report students that they think are suspicious. You can call the University Police Department or Emergency Management Office to report suspicious activity.
Yebra encourages everyone to have the Kat Safe emergency notifications on.
The Kat Safe website and mobile app provide extensive information as well as videos that explain what to do in emergency type situations. Yebra especially stresses the importance of the “run, hide, flight” model in the event of an active shooter.
According to the SHSU Emergency Management team, the first step students should do is run even when others do not agree, leave your personal items behind, help others escape as possible, warn others from entering dangerous areas and call 9-1-1 when you are safe. The second step is to hide in places that do not restrict your escape routes, are out of view and away from glass, barricade doors, silence cell phones and stay very quiet. If there are no other options available and your life is in danger, fight. Look around your area for possible weapons and commit to your action. When engaging with a shooter, act with physical aggression.
“Our police department is very vigilant, but we ask you to be vigilant too,” Blackburn said.
Everything students need to know in case of an emergency can be found on Kat Safe at https://www.shsu.edu/katsafe/ or on the Kat Safe app.