Pierce College students and staff are being told this month how to respond if a shooter ever opens fire on campus.
Similar to its earthquake and fire drills, the college has added active shooter training to its repertoire of preparedness planning. Recent campus shootings around the country, including the Oct. 1 attack at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, have added a sense of urgency to the training.
“It’s just the sad state of affairs based on what’s been going on around the nation,” said Pierce College spokesman Brian Benedetti.
Students and faculty need to be prepared and thinking “What if the worst-case scenario happened, what can I do?” Benedetti said.
The first priority is to look out for yourself, said Chris MacKersie, the school’s director of safety and security.
“Your actions you take, your decisions you make, have the most impact on your survival,” MacKersie told a full lecture hall Wednesday.
“The fact you showed up today for approximately an hour today might mean the difference of life or death for you in the future,” he said.
The college has campuses in Lakewood and Puyallup, and programs at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Staff and faculty members have previously received training on how to respond to a shooter on campus. This is the first time students were brought into the discussion.
The majority of people at Wednesday’s training on the Lakewood Campus were students.
Katelynn Munson, 17, and Megan Dale, 18, were part of that group. They are younger students in the Running Start program and had attended other trainings as children.
In elementary school, Dale and Munson were taught to huddle together in a locked classroom if a shooter came on campus.
That is no longer considered the best response.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security now encourages a “Run, Hide, Fight” response.
If people can get away from campus, they should try that first. If running makes them a target, they should instead find a safe place to hide.
The last option is to fight back. Not everyone may be willing to do that, but if people communicate and work together they can be successful at saving lives, MacKersie said.
Pierce College had its series of active-shooter trainings planned before the deaths of nine people at Umpqua Community College earlier this month, said Marty Cavalluzzi, president of the Puyallup campus.
“The more people who are trained, the more people that can get everyone moving,” he said.
Talking about how to respond to a mass shooting will help people develop a survival mindset. That could be the difference between life or death, MacKersie said.
“These things typically last only minutes,” Benedetti said. “Even at the most secure campus, it will take the police a few minutes for them to get there.”
The college isn’t trying to whip up fear in its population; it wants people to be aware that although unlikely, an attack could happen.
“It’s an open college, you have no control who comes on campus and where they go,” Cavalluzzi said. “I think the more aware you are, the calmer you are.”