The ongoing wave of gun violence at college campuses raises the question of how well prepared students and staff really are locally in regards to this nation-wide issue.
Mass shootings, including the recent incident at Umpqua Community College in Oregon where nine people were killed, have become far more common than they should. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, there has been 143 school shootings since 2013. Some incidents have been domestic disputes that took place on campus. But regardless of their nature and the number of lives lost, it is of crucial importance to be prepared and know how to react to an emergency.
President Rajen Vurdien sent out a statement to PCC’s staff last week expressing his feelings about the recent tragedy.
“On behalf of the college community, I would like to send our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends affected by this senseless tragedy,” he wrote.
He also reiterated the importance of campus safety and reminded staff of the “comprehensive security system” the college already has in place to deal with an active shooter scenario.
“We try our best to provide as much information as we can, we have an active shooter plan,” PCC Interim Police Chief Steve Matchan said. “We posted posters all through out our campus, through all classrooms and offices and we do hand out pamphlets to students.”
The posters around campus warn that an active shooter incident is unpredictable and can evolve quickly.
In case of an incident campus police recommends students get out if there is an escape path and help others when possible. Call 911 when it is safe to do so and provide law enforcement or the 911 operator with as much information as possible. In case evacuation is not possible, hide out. Once in a hiding place, keep out the shooter by blocking doors. As a last resort, take out the shooter by using physical aggression, throwing items or improvising weapons.
Campus police also spends time providing as much training as possible to staff, Matchan said.
“When the staff invites us to divisional meetings, staff meetings, we’ll go provide 10 minute, 15 minute training on active shooters because students will look to them for direction,” he said. “So we are trying to provide as much training as we can, provide as much information as we can, so everybody can know what we are going to do.”
President Vurdien has also worked with Chief Matchan to have two active shooter drills on campus in the spring semester, held in the morning and in the evening.
“Early next spring, we are going to try to do a multi-jurisdictional training, active shooter drill that will encompass everyone on campus,” Matchan said. “Using our Rave alert system, which everybody basically is enrolled in, so in case an active shooter does occur or a major incident happens on campus, we’ll send out an alert to everybody’s cell phone, advising them what to do during an incident.”
As gun violence on campuses continues, so does the controversy over gun control. Matchan said that mental health problems are often associated with mass shootings.
“I believe that people are failing to see bigger issues,” Matchan said. “Usually when these incidents occur they’ve always found out or discovered that the person who carried out these incidences had either mental issues or emotional issues … I think as a whole we lose focus on who the guns belong to and who is controlling that gun, because remember guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”
Matchan said he feels it’s unfortunate to find out too late that family members of individuals who carried out these incidences had been looking or asking for help for their son, daughter, brother or sister.
Campus police encourages all staff and students to make sure their current cell phone numbers are enrolled in Rave, the college’s emergency text alert system. Please visit www.pasadena.edu/police/rave.cfm to sign up.
For more information on PCC’s security system and how to respond to an active shooter scenario please visit www.pasadena.edu/police/active-shooter-info.cfm.