Indiana State brings together school administrators and law enforcement from several states at Active Shooters workshop

June 11 2007

First responders to “active shooter situations,” such as what occurred at Virginia Tech in April, are typically outgunned and not sufficiently trained, Jason Winkle told attendees of the Active Shooters on Campus workshop held at Indiana State University on June 5.

“But that is something we have control over,” said Winkle, assistant professor of physical education, who coordinated the workshop hosted by the ISU departments of physical education and public safety, and the International Tactical Officers Training Association.

More than 120 law enforcement officers, school administrators, public health officials and safety personnel came to the workshop from eight states and throughout Indiana to learn how they can better prepare their institutions and businesses for an active shooter situation.

“We are a 4,800-person facility, so we are as large as a small college, but without the sprawling campus,” said Carl Lewallen, manager of plant security at Rolls-Royce in Indianapolis. “We have 65 acres all under one roof, and the local police have never come into our facility, so they would really struggle if we ever had a situation where we needed their help. If they don’t understand the basic grid, how would they ever find him'”

Representatives from several colleges and universities -- including Ball State, Indiana University, Indiana-Purdue Ft. Wayne, IU Southeast, Marian College, University of Indianapolis, Hanover College, Vincennes University, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Otterbein College in Ohio and ISU -- sought information to bring back to their campuses.

Leanne Malloy, director of counseling services for Marian College, attended the workshop at ISU, while her colleagues in student life and human resources were attending a similar conference elsewhere.

“The plan is to gather information at these different workshops and then meet and process what we learned,” Malloy said. “We are planning on combining our knowledge and then reviewing our crisis procedures, and seeing where we are at.”

Winkle, who also is president of the International Tactical Officers Training Association, described an active shooter as a “suspect whose activity is immediately causing death and serious bodily injury. The activity is not contained and there is immediate risk of death or serious injury to potential victims.”

The former director of combatives for the United States Military Academy at West Point, and an international presenter in the areas of SWAT and leadership in high-stress/high-fear environments, Winkle told attendees that the average active shooter situation lasts 17 minutes. Virginia Tech was over in eight, he said.

“Most victims of active shooters are shot within the first three minutes. The longer we take the more people die,” Winkle said. “It takes a SWAT team 45 minutes to assemble and get to the site. That is too long for these situations. Action has to come from the inside.”

It is the patrol officers, security guards and campus police who are going to be the first ones on the scene, and they have to know what to do when every minute wasted is more lives lost, he said.

“Complacency puts you in a state of unpreparedness, and being unprepared makes you hesitate, and gives the shooter another chance to kill someone,” Winkle said.

THE WARRIOR MINDSET

Louis Rapoli, a police sergeant in the School Safety Division of the New York Police Department, debriefed workshop attendees on the shooting at Virginia Tech, and explained each step that was taken by law enforcement and administrators.

A picture of Jack Bauer from the TV show 24 appeared on the screen behind him, and Rapoli said to the attendees, “When an incident like this happens, there will be no Jack Bauer to come and save your school. You’re the people who are either going to prevent this from happening or be first on the scene when it does happen. You need to be prepared. ‘If not me, then who’ �" that’s what you need to be thinking about to get your schools ready for a terrorist attack.”

Winkle calls this the “Warrior Mindset.”

“These are situations of extreme stress, extreme fear, and extreme violence, and that shuts down most people. We need to be prepared,” Winkle said.

The defining characteristic of a warrior �" whether you’re a police officer or a business owner -- is your willingness to move toward danger, he said.

“People are trying to run out of building, and you, as a school administrator, need to get on the PA system and call out codes for lockdown. You have to be a warrior at that moment,” he said.

The role of law enforcement is to move toward something that everyone else is running away from, he said.

“You have to move toward something that cripples the majority of our population, and the ability to do that comes from practice and planning, it doesn’t come through false bravado,” he said “You only look cool in training, but once it’s real, you feel that sick, cold feeling in your stomach and you don’t look cool anymore.”

Charles Butler, Vincennes district officer and firearms instructor for the Indiana State Excise Police, attended the workshop because excise officers might be called in by state police to assist in active shooter situations, he said.

“It was good to hear the warrior mindset emphasized,” Butler said, “and they gave good examples of training that law enforcement needs to have. An officer can never get enough training. It is the best tool a police officer can have.”

Winkle recommended the following guidelines for law enforcement to be successful in active shooter situations:

- Develop physical fitness and toughness through challenging, contact-driven training.
- Become familiar (and comfortable) with the physiological changes that accompany high-stress and high-fear situations.
- Become familiar with the nature of violence and be willing to use it when appropriate.
- Engage in training that is as close as possible to the actual situation, involving fear and stress.
- Internalize a code of conduct.
- Know the nature of the enemy and active shooter doctrine.

THE ROLE OF ADMINISTRATORS

One of the most important things administrators can do to help is provide the internal support and funding to properly equip their security personnel so they are trained and protected, Winkle said.

“Those of you who are administrators, I applaud you for being here. That means that you already take this seriously and want to be prepared,” he said. “You need to know that your people can’t take care of business if they don’t have what is necessary to do it.”

Winkle recommends all law enforcement and safety personnel have the following equipment in their vehicles: patrol rifle (more accurate, defeats body armor); ballistic vest (always wear when you are on patrol); tactical vest with extra ammo (keep in your trunk); Kevlar helmet with face shield (for eye protection); and breach equipment such as bolt cutters, a Halligan tool, and ram.

Administrators also need to understand the actions that law enforcement will take in the event of an active shooter situation, he said.

“When law enforcement comes into your school, they are going to come in in a very particular and very quick way,” Winkle said. “When you see police walk right by people who are shot, if you don’t understand why they’re doing that, you can make it worse.

“They have one goal, and that is to neutralize the killer. A secondary team will come by and triage the injured. Administration can get in the way if they don’t understand that.”

Winkle urged schools to develop a partnership with local law enforcement.

“Work together to develop realistic school safety plans in response to various threats,” he said. “Conduct joint training sessions and field training exercises that are realistic.”

Schools also need to have a crisis management team, he said.

“The crisis management team is going to know the layout of the school, what walls are made of, where people can hide, what doors are and aren’t locked. They are going to know the emergency management plan,” Winkle said. “When bad things happen, they are grabbing their gear bag and meeting the first responders and telling them, ‘Here’s where we think the shooter is, here’s what you need to know about the building.’”

PREVENTION

In his job with the NYPD, Sgt. Rapoli identifies possible threats to the New York public school system, and recommends appropriate action.

“Most active shooter scenarios involve premeditation,” said Rapoli, a guest speaker at the workshop. “In many cases, someone �" such as a classmate, friend or sibling -- knew about it or heard it was going to happen beforehand. You need to listen to what students are telling each other.”

As a counselor at Marian College, Malloy is bound by patient confidentiality laws, unless she determines there is a potential for bodily harm.

“Confidentiality goes out the window if there is a concern that they will harm themselves or others,” Malloy said. “In these situations, confidentiality doesn’t hold.”

When a student comes to you with a complaint about another student or exhibits behavior you think is strange, listen closely and take it seriously, Rapoli said.

“We have found that many attackers felt bullied or persecuted in school. They said that adults did not listen to them and did not address the situation,” Rapoli said. “They responded with vengeance and violence because they felt that was their only course of action to get people to listen to them.”

Rapoli said all schools need to have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bullying because there is such a strong connection between those who are bullied, later lashing out in increasingly violent ways.

“Get the word out to all students that you have a no-bullying policy and back it up,” he said. “Institute anonymous reporting �" through an off-site call center or in-school hotline �" so students can feel safe telling adults about what’s really going on in their schools.”

Another way of “listening” is to monitor chat rooms on Web sites such as MySpace and homemade videos on YouTube.

“YouTube is becoming a systemic problem in the school system and you should really try to understand what these Web sites are all about,” Rapoli said. “Plots have been foiled by people seeing premeditation and threats on those sites.”

Dorene Hojnicki, director of the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency, and public health coordinator of the Vigo County Health Department, also spoke at the workshop and offered another way to gather crucial information.

“Utilize your housekeeping staff, food line people and bus drivers,” Hojnicki said. “They see and interact with students all the time. Make them comfortable reporting that info back, and you will get very valuable information.”

Hojnicki also encouraged active surveillance by having a law enforcement presence in uniform, which can serve as a deterrent to potential attackers.

Indiana State University’s department of public safety recently formalized its safety guidelines in the event of an active shooter situation on campus, and posted them on the department’s Web site.

Bill Mercier, director of ISU public safety, attended the workshop with several of his officers, and said that the university is actively pursuing a way to text-message campus constituents in an emergency situation.

“We are looking into various vendors who can provide a text-messaging emergency notification system,” Mercier said. “They talked here at the conference today about redundant notification and we’re pretty well covered at ISU with pop-up e-mail notification, global e-mails, sirens and the 237-7777 emergency number, but we want to be able to reach people who aren’t on a computer at the time.”

Public safety also is upgrading its emergency dispatch center to be compatible with the new combined Terre Haute city and Vigo County 911 call center.

“In the event they go down, we will be on board to be the backup emergency call center,” Mercier said.

Rapoli recommended the following guidelines for schools to be successful in preventing and acting quickly in active shooter situations:

- Emergency notifications systems: build on redundancy.
- Blast text e-mails to computers or cell phones.
- Siren warning system.
- Inter-operability: have radios so buildings can communicate if the phone system is disabled.
- Anonymous reporting hotline.
- Practice campus/school lockdowns: if there are glass windows, obstruct them with paper; barricade doors with furniture.
- Multi-agency drills: plans are only good if they are taken off the shelf and used. Pre-plan for all scenarios, such as mass-hostage seizures. There are grants available for this training.
- Patrol vehicles should have generic floor plans of each building and a photo catalog of the school.

FURTHER RESOURCES

To find out more about how to keep schools safe and what grants are available for training and equipment, go to:
• Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative (www.sshs.samhsa.gov)
The Safe Schools/Healthy Students Initiative is a unique federal grant-making program designed to prevent violence and substance abuse among our nation’s youth, schools and communities.

• Secret Service Safe School Initiative (www.secretservice.gov/ntac_ssi.shtml)
The Secret Service and Department of Education published two reports that detail the Safe School Initiative study findings and lay out a process for threat assessment in schools.

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PHOTOS: (download high-resolution photo of workshop)

Jason Winkle at workshop
CAPTION: Jason Winkle, assistant professor of physical education and Active Shooter workshop coordinator, addresses more than 120 law enforcement officers, school administrators, public health officials and safety personnel at ISU’s Hulman Memorial Student Union on June 5, 2007.

Law enforcement at workshop
CAPTION: Law enforcement from throughout Indiana learned about how to better prepare for an active shooter situation at a workshop June 5 at Indiana State University.

CONTACT: Jason Winkle, assistant professor of physical education, (812) 243-6411 (cell), or Jwinkle13@mac.com

WRITER: Katie Spanuello, media relations assistant director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3790 or kspanuello@isugw.indstate.edu

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Story Highlights

More than 120 law enforcement officers, school administrators, public health officials and safety personnel came to ISU's workshop from eight states and throughout Indiana to learn how they can better prepare their institutions and businesses for an active shooter situation.

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