Drew University Responds To Parkland

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By Anna Gombert

     On Feb. 14, a gunman walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, with an AR-15 and opened fire, killing 17 students and injuring more. According to the New York Times, Nikolas Cruz, a former student of the high school, arrived at the school at 2:19 p.m. in an Uber carrying a black duffel bag and backpack. The victims included 14 students and 3 faculty members. Cruz reportedly obtained the gun legally from Sunrise Tactical Supply.

     Cruz opened fire on the first and second floors of the freshman building, continued the New York Times. Cruz stowed his rifle, vest and ammunition in a stairwell of the school and blended into the crowd of students fleeing the building in order to escape. He reportedly went to Subway after the shooting. He was arrested at 3:41 p.m. without difficulty as he walked down a street in a residential area.  

     Cruz is being charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder according to the arrest papers published by the New York TImes and is being held at Broward County Jail without bail.

     According to Time, the shooting is now the 6th school shooting this year that have resulted in injuries. There have been 17 incidents of gunfire in schools this year, as Everytown USA reports. It is also the deadliest school shooting since the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, which claimed the lives of 26 people.

     After this event, Drew students have wondered how the school would handle such a situation.

     President Baenninger sent out a campus-wide email on Feb. 21, about campus’ safety policies and procedures. She explained that Drew’s plan for an active shooter was reviewed and revised in October 2017, and was approved by the Board of Trustees.

     She stated, “Members of our Public Safety team, and our Madison Borough and Morris County partners, have had in-depth training in emergency preparedness and response, including active-shooter response. “

     For students, there is a video that details the protocol for such a situation, titled “Shots Fired on Campus: When Lightning Strikes,” which can be accessed from the email that was sent out. She clarified, “We are also developing tools for visitors such as prospective students and parents, visitors to cultural and sporting events, and business partners who regularly access the campus.”

     William Ortman, Director of Public Safety, described Drew’s protocol for such situations. Drew has an emergency mass notification system that sends notifications by phone, text and email simultaneously. Public Safety conducts rounds around campus continuously, day and night, and they also stop and talk to people who appear lost, confused or don’t appear to be part of the campus population. Public Safety also responds to student, faculty and staff reports of individuals who don’t appear to be from Drew or are acting strangely.

     Ortman explained that Public Safety has the ability to lock down certain campus buildings remotely and simultaneously from their headquarters in Pepin. “We can also talk over the fire alarm intercom system and speak to people in the EC, the Commons and Tilghman House. Three campus buildings currently have alarm systems,” he said. “Drew Public Safety shares a dispatch system with the Madison Police Department and can speak to their dispatcher immediately in the case of an emergency. We can also hear if a call has come to Madison Police Department from Drew and respond to it before they arrive.”

     In a situation such as the Parkland shooting, students should immediately call 911, says Ortman. If a student makes the call from a University phone, it will ring in Public Safety where a dispatcher is on duty 24/7. If a student calls from a cell phone will go straight to Madison PD. This shared dispatch system allows for immediate cross communication. The person making the call should describe the person in question, the weapon they’re carrying and where on campus they are located. Students should seek shelter behind a solid door that locks from the inside and move furniture in front of the door. Ortman says that all dorm room doors satisfy this description.

     Madison PD is immediately contacted if there is a suspected weapon or if any shots are fired on campus. Public Safety officers arrive at the scene to assess the situation and report. Any additional information is reported to dispatch so a message can be sent to students, faculty and staff through the Emergency Mass Notification system if a lockdown is needed. Public Safety assists all outsider emergency responders and maintain order in areas where large amounts of students have taken refuge, such as the E.C. The Communications Department can push out an emergency communication as well as put additional information on the website about the emergency. The department also takes care of communications with outside media. Behind the scenes, Public Safety and Communications alert Drew administration to the emergency, in order for all departments can respond as needed.

     “My office has been directed by the President and her Cabinet to roll out a series of education and trainings aimed at informing the campus community how to respond to an Active Shooter emergency. I am certified as an Active Shooter Response Instructor and have given multiple presentations to date, mostly to faculty and staff,” Ortman explained. “The goal is to educate as many of our population as possible as to their options in such a frightening, albeit unlikely, situation. I will be working with the Provost’s office to set up a series of dates and times for these presentations.”

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