WKUPD makes emergency plan in case of a shooter on campus

Cameron Koch

The deaths of 26 people, many of them children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. served as a grim reminder for many of the threat of gun violence.

Sandy Hook and other recent shootings didn’t go unnoticed by President Gary Ransdell either, and he asked for an answer as to what WKU’s response to an active shooter on campus would be.

“Given a lot that has happened in schools and college campuses recently…I wanted our police department to assure us that we are prepared,” Ransdell said.

WKU Police Chief Robert Deane provided both an answer and assurance at WKU’s Board of Regents Committee Meeting on March 29.

“Years ago, prior to Columbine, the school of thought in policing was you surround a building, you contain it, and you wait for the SWAT team or whoever you call to come in and do whatever they need to do,” Deane said. “Of course, that has changed now. The expectation now is you go in with whatever you have available as quickly as you can and resolve the situation.”

Deane said an immediate response with on-hand police officers, whether from WKUPD or Bowling Green Police Department, is now the official policy of WKU in dealing with the threat of an active shooter on campus.

“It helped give the board and the administration assurance that such matters would be dealt with thoughtfully and decisively,” Ransdell said.

Text alerts would be used to alert students to an active shooter situation, and, according to the specific scenario, give instructions as to what students, faculty and staff on campus should do.

Students may be advised to stay where they are, or to evacuate the area, he said. Deane said the alerts in a shooter scenario or any developing crime situation are a challenge.

“We are limited in the number of characters we can use in a text message,” he said. “We can’t get real specific and get long winded, we have to be very succinct and to the point. That’s why we may send out more than one message…we try to update the campus with a newer set.”

Students don’t see text alerts more often because of their intended purpose – they are for emergencies only.

“Here’s the balance we have to have,” Deane said. “If you do text message too often, then nobody pays any attention to it, they say ‘Ah, here we go again.’ So we try to save it for situations that are really critical and really not an everyday occurrence. When you get a text message, you know something is going on.”

An active shooter on campus is a serious matter, so serious that Deane said WKUPD takes incidents involving fake weapons, such as an April 3 report of an unnamed student shooting out a window with a BB gun on campus, very seriously.

“Whether you got a water gun, a BB gun, or a real gun – we take it seriously,” Deane said. “Somebody may not know that’s a water gun, somebody may not know that’s a BB gun and take it for a real gun or then pull out a real gun. So we take each and every one of those situations seriously. We don’t blow it off.”

Deane said keeping officers trained in the latest police methods and equipped with the latest resources will also help the WKUPD in responding not only to the threat of an active shooter on campus but to any immediate campus emergency.

“It’s something we hope and pray never occurs, but in the event it does, we’ve prepared our officers to deal with that, should it happen,” he said.