By: Phillip Nagler | Opinions  | 

Are Students Prepared in Case of an Active Shooter on Campus?

A few Sundays ago, I was sitting in the Heights Lounge talking to one of my friends. An alarm suddenly went off that could be heard throughout the entire building. I immediately got up to look around the lounge to see what was going on. Out of the 30 people or so sitting in the lounge, most of them didn’t even flinch. It seemed nobody was worried in the slightest sense. I asked my friend if they thought it was the shooter or fire alarm. “I’m fairly certain it’s not the shooter alarm,” they replied. I decided to walk out of the lounge to ask security what was going on, and they informed me that the alarm went off due to a glitch in the system.

Although this whole situation turned out to be a false alarm, it made me realize how unprepared I am in the case of an emergency. At the time, I wasn’t even sure if there was an alarm that notifies everyone of an active shooter. YU prepares students in cases of an active shooter by showing them a video on the topic and explaining proper protocol at orientation. I watched this video twice; once at my post-Pesach orientation and once at my fall orientation. Yet, there I was, unsure of how students are notified if an active shooter is on campus. It is also important to note that I am only in my second semester in YU and I’ve already forgotten most of the procedures described in the video. Do students in their second, third, and fourth years on campus remember what the video said during their freshman orientation? In fact, some students have told me that they’ve never even seen the video.

According to YU’s emergency response policy, “The Security Department, in conjunction with the Department of Environmental Health and Safety (as applicable), is responsible for testing the University’s emergency response and evacuation procedures at least once per year.” In the document, however, it does not specify what type of test will be run. Personally, I have experienced only one fire drill this year during my morning shiur in Zysman. Additionally, I have heard from other students that there are periodic fire drills in the library.

Back when I was in high school, I remember having two security drills annually. About an hour was devoted to the security drill. A security expert from the IDF would come in and speak to the entire school for about 20 minutes about general security procedures. Then, each class would return to their classroom and practice the lockdown drill. Although I’ve never had to experience such a horrific event, these drills gave me some reassurance that I’m prepared if something were to ever happen. I understand that it could be inconvenient to run similar drills in YU, since everyone is running on a completely different schedule. That being said, school shooters do not care about our convenience, and it is our responsibility to prepare ourselves.

It seems that my plea to the university was answered before I even made it. A week after I started writing this article and right before Pesach, an email from security was sent out about new policies and drills that will now be conducted on campus. Ultimately, though, the university can do only so much to prepare us in case of an emergency. It is the responsibility of every student to prepare themselves for such an emergency. I’d urge each and every one of you reading this article to set aside time to prepare yourself for an active shooter. Whether that means signing up for an active shooter drill or watching the safety video on the YU website, its imperative that you stay on top of your own safety.

If you suddenly feel compelled to prepare yourself in the event of an active shooter on campus, here is a summary of some important details to remember that are listed on YU’s security page:

   (1) When an active shooter or commotion is near you, flee the area you are in and search for a safe place to take cover. Only contact 911 once you are in a secure area.

   (2) Search for a room or office that locks from the inside. If the door does not lock, barricade it with whatever heavy objects are in the room. Close the windows and stay as quiet as possible.

   (3) If you are caught in an open area or hallway, hide as well as you can and stay silent or “play dead” to avoid detection.

   (4) If you get a YU alert that a shooter is in on campus and you are outside, take immediate cover or leave campus. Distance yourself from the building that the active shooter is in.

   If you do not receive YU alerts, update your contact information here:

   (5) Consider all risks when leaving a secure area. It is common for shooters to pose as police in order to get people to leave their shelters. Wait until trusted emergency personnel give you an “all clear,” or until a YU alert is sent out that says the situation is under control.

For those of you who just completely skipped reading 1-5, I get it. It seems so unreal for something like this to happen. It feels like an active shooter is a one in a million occurrence. However, if you have glanced at the news at all in the past couple of months, then you know that this is a foolish mentality to have. Unfortunately, deathly shootings have been occurring too often lately, and we must accept that this is a potential reality and prepare ourselves accordingly.