Campus police run safety shooting drills

Joanna Beckett

The Department of Public Safety at CSUN engaged in its first multi-agency active shooter drill on Jan. 3. The campus shooting drill took place in and around the Northridge Academy High School.

The California Highway Patrol, Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Unified School District Police Department joined CSUN police in an exercise that coordinated the different agencies in responding to a shooting on campus.

“To my knowledge, active shooter training has never happened with CSUN police, highway patrol, LAPD, LAUSD police all together,” said Captain Alfredo Fernandez of CSUN police.

The practice drill focused on getting officers to respond quickly in the event of an active shooter situation, which means making sure all the different officers are capable of working well together, said Fernandez.

Christina Villalobos, CSUN community relations officer, said another purpose of the drill was to practice a real time campus response to a shooting. During the drill, tactics and strategies in case of a shooting were reenacted and evaluated to determine what the various agencies can approve on to ensure a synchronized response.

“We found out we worked very well together and we identified the areas we need to improve,” said Fernandez.

This drill will allow not only campus police to move quickly, but also ensure that all the agencies involved will be able to work quicker and more efficiently in approaching an active shooter incident, said Fernandez.

Officers were challenged with three “real time” active shooter scenarios that included finding the active shooter and searching for victims in and around the campus.

CSUN police engage in at least two active shooter exercises a year, said Fernandez, but partnering with outside agencies came to the forefront after last year’s deadliest school shooting in U.S. history.

“Basically, our chief was responding to the issue of Virginia Tech, although we do train all year long for active shooter,” said Fernandez.

The Virginia Tech University campus shootings led CSUN police to incorporate outside law enforcement departments in one of the year’s many active shooter drills.

“College campus shooting is obviously a timely topic in light of Virginia Tech,” said Anne Glavin, CSUN chief of police.

Glavin was the organizer behind the first ever multi-agency drill on CSUN’s campus and cites Virginia Tech as the idea behind the drill. Glavin said the drill was a success and is hopeful campus police will incorporate outside agencies in future emergency incident drills.

On April 16, 2007, gunman Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 individuals, which included students and faculty members, during a shooting rampage that began in a Virginia Tech dormitory. Seung- Hui eventually killed himself at the university’s Norris Hall. The college campus shooting shocked the nation and posed new questions about college campus safety.

Teresa Pena, a CSUN senior, said she didn’t feel safe on campus since Virginia Tech, but thinks the multi-agency drill will make her feel safer.

Pena said the CSUN police should provide more information to students about planning and surviving a campus shooting.

“Students should have a direct plan, because during that time you’re frantic,” said junior Tracy Wise. “They should have a pamphlet for us.”

Fernandez said students should not dwell on the rarity of a Virginia Tech incident happening on campus. He urges students to plan ahead and follow a few simple rules to prevent them from being in a position to become a victim during a school shooting.

“Students should be aware and take precautions, but don’t paralyze yourself with fear,” said Fernandez.

The first thing is to try to escape, followed by seeking shelter if you cannot escape and finally being the best witness you can be to law enforcement, Fernandez said.

Jimmy Del Barro, a sophomore, said when he heard about the Virginia Tech shootings, he was shocked by how many people were killed. He said that he and other students walk around with the attitude that it’s not going to happen to them or at least not on this campus.

Del Barro said Fernandez’s advice for students is very much true, but doubts many students will take it. He said thinking ahead is hard to do in a crisis situation because students will mostly rely on instinct.

“Much like an earthquake, you know you can’t prevent it,” Del Barro said.