Lessons from Active Shooter Drill Shared in Town Hall Meeting

Champ-Auditorium

Champ Auditorium, the location of the March 15 active shooter drill. PHOTO COURTESY OF WESTMINSTER COLLEGE.

BY COURTNEY GALLAGHER
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

In Thursday’s town hall meeting, Westminster’s safety committee shared video footage from the March 15 active shooter drill and evaluated the exercise.


The 14-minute video, shown in the Coulter Science Lecture Hall, displayed the drill from the “shooter’s” perspective, using footage filmed from a GoPro on the actor’s head. The sound of gun shots could be heard, followed by actors screaming, running and falling to the floor as if they had been shot. The video switched between this perspective and footage of emergency vehicles arriving and “victims” being carried out of Champ Auditorium on stretchers.

Many of the actors in the exercise were Westminster’s residential advisers, who gave feedback after watching the video.

Sydney Franklin, ’18, who played the role of a hysterical person trying to get the attention of paramedics and other emergency personnel, said she felt like it took a long time for help to arrive during the drill, but after watching the footage, realized that help came a lot faster than she originally thought.

Sergeant Shannon Jeffries of the Callaway County Sheriff’s Office echoed Franklin’s statement.

“In a high-stress situation, time slows down,” he said.

Jeffries, who created the drill’s plan, said he waited four to five minutes before dispatching the first team to account for the administrative time it takes to call 911, and then sent more teams one to two minutes apart. He added that he paired officers who were not trained together, since in the event of a real shooting, officers from different areas would be working together.

Assistant Director of Greek Life Nicole Elliott, who also played the role of a hysterical person, said she experienced how easy it would be to become panicked and found it helpful when responders assured her that help was on the way and would arrive soon.

“One of the biggest lessons learned is to ensure help is coming,” Jeffries said after hearing the feedback from the drill. “That’s something I never thought of before.”

He added that he plans to include this detail in his future training.

Jackie Weber, director of residential life and a member of the safety committee, explained that in the event of a shooter, the college’s cabinet would take the next step after the emergency response. This would include taking phone calls and making sure students are accounted for.

“It was a good test for the leadership team, as well, to test the response,” Dan Haslag, interim vice president and dean of student life, said about practicing the crisis plan.

“There were at least 15 hours of planning and preparing that went into this,” Weber said.

She said Champ Auditorium was chosen for the drill because of the well-known speakers who visit campus and because the “nooks and crannies added another layer of confusion and challenge.”

The safety committee made sure the students in attendance were able to hear the sirens from where they were on campus on the day of the drill and encouraged everyone to sign up for Textcaster if they have not already, or did not receive a text message alerting them of the drill.

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