National shooting crises encourage stronger campus security

A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) Training prepares campus community members for defense in case of an active shooter incident. The next training session is Oct. 28 at the lower level of the Stone Lodge.

The UNA Police Department is searching for more effective campus security methods following the increased number of national active shooter incidences over the past few years.

In order to create a safer environment on campus, said Chief of Police Kevin Gillilan. UNA police are researching effective lockdown procedures and more protection methods.

These may include first-aid kits for every room on campus, signage for windows and jam blocks, an entry-sealing device made to keep assailants out, he said.

UNA, like most Alabama campuses, is gun-free, Gillilan said.

The university decided to be a gun-free zone in 2013, according to the police department.

“(Being gun-free) helps campuses, in that, theoretically, you’re not allowing firearms on campus unless it’s in the hands of a trained law enforcement officer,” Gillilan said.

As shootings occur, Americans become more concerned about personal gun laws, but government laws give college campuses their own choice to be gun-free.

The FBI performed a study in 2014 on active shooter incidents from 2000 and reported 160 active shooter incidents resulting in 486 deaths, not including the assailants.

During those studied years, 12 incidents involved post-secondary educational facilities resulting in 60 total deaths. With the most recent campus shootings, college students question their safety from gun violence.

“I think the recent campus shootings are terrible,” said freshman Alli Gower. “It is scary how it is happening more and more often. You can never be sure of your safety these days.”

The study also found a dramatic increase in the number of incidences over those 14 years. The number of incidences per year increased from 6.4 to 16.4 when comparing the first and last seven years of the study.

Others argue gun-free campuses are targeted more due to a lack of gun protection, Gillilan said.

“I don’t believe that taking people’s guns away from them will stop the shootings from happening,” Gower said. “They will still get a gun regardless.”

The police department also offers A.L.I.C.E. (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training for UNA community members and local residents in preparation for an active shooter situation. During a three-hour session, A.L.I.C.E. teaches people the steps for optimal safety during an active shooter incident.

“Action beats reaction,” said Terry Parker, A.L.I.C.E. trainer. “If you have trained for an event like (the Oregon campus shooting) then you are more able to respond in a positive way and not freeze wondering what to do.”

The police department offers the training once a month and is free for anyone at UNA or in the community who wishes to attend. The next training session is Oct. 28 at the lower level of the Stone Lodge.

There are other means of protection available to the campus community.

Gillilan said pepper spray is an easy option.

The UNA Police Department can arrange training and certification for pepper spray devices at a reduced price for campus members.

Junior Sam Wallace said he thinks these shootings continue happening as a chain-reaction effect.

“Some people realize they can do this and get attention,” Wallace said.

If a student sees someone who seems distressed, he or she may contact UNA’s CARE (Campus Assistance Referral and Evaluation) Team. The CARE Team’s job is to ensure the person receives the attention he or she needs as well as maintain the safety of university students.

The CARE referral process is simple, and the university suggests it in order to keep the individual and the community safe.

“It scares me some, but I would hope that something like (campus shootings) wouldn’t happen at UNA,” said junior Meredith Williams.

Parker said he thinks it’s important for students to be alert, informed and prepared for an active shooter incident.

If a person knows or suspects a violent situation could take place, he or she should alert campus police or call 911 immediately.