Active Shooter Response: What You Need to Know
From left, Sgt. Derek Borek of the R.I. State Police; Koren Kanadanian, director of emergency management at Providence College; and Frederick Ghio, chief of campus police at Rhode Island College.
With shootings becoming more frequent at U.S. educational institutions, Rhode Island College recently held an informational session on active shooter response. The session was organized by Frederick Ghio, chief of campus police at Rhode Island College, and included presentations by Sgt. Derek Borek of the R.I. State Police and Koren Kanadanian, director of emergency management at Providence College.
“The first mistake people make is thinking that it could never happen here,” Borek said to an audience of RIC faculty, staff and students.
RIC has a student population of about 9,000, along with approximately 2,000 faculty and staff. “RIC is a target-rich environment,” Borek said. An active shooter is defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a conﬁned and populated area.” RIC is a confined and populated area. “It could happen here,” he said.
Borek also warned against assuming that there is a certain “type” of individual who carries out these crimes. “In fact, researchers have found no specific profile for these individuals except that they tend to be predominantly male,” he said. “Most attackers had no prior history of violent or criminal behavior.”
Researchers do know that incidents of targeted violence are rarely sudden impulsive acts. Attacks are typically thought out beforehand and involve some degree of advanced planning. In many cases, at least one person knew some aspect of the attacker’s intent before the attack, but failed to report it.
Borek referred to Columbine and how the shooters mapped out in an English essay exactly how they would kill fellow students. Their teacher graded their papers but didn’t report it. “If a person indicates that they plan to harm themselves or others, you have an obligation to pass that information on to authorities,” Borek said.
Once a shooting begins, it evolves quickly. “Most casualties occur in the first 10 minutes,” he said. At the Sandy Hook Elementary School, Adam Lanza killed 27 people, including himself, in less than four minutes. Therefore, staff, faculty and campus police play a critical role prior to the arrival of law enforcement. “The choice you make could save your life and the life of others,” he said.
There are three steps one can take in the event of an active shooter: hide, flee or fight the shooter, he said. A video created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security dramatizing these tactics was shown to the audience. Homeland Security also offers an online training course on shooter preparedness. A certificate is issued upon completion of the module.
Following Borek’s remarks, Kanadanian talked about developing a college-wide emergency action plan. According to Ghio, RIC is taking steps to update RIC’s plan. “We’ve also prepared an ‘Active Shooter Quick Reference Guide’ that will be placed in every classroom by the end of November. Preparedness for this type of emergency is critical to the ongoing safety of the campus community,” said Ghio.