by Natasha Chernyavsky
February 14—a day usually remembered for its emphasis on love—will now stand as the anniversary for the seventeen lives lost in Parkland, FL after Nikolas Cruz, 19, opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. The news of Parkland’s school shooting may have left people devastated, but it didn’t seem to surprise them, nor has it come as a shock to the University of Northwestern’s Public Safety.
The incidents in Parkland has spurred some conversation on campus as to whether there needs to be an increase in counter measures by Public Safety. Some suggestions have included arming Public Safety or allowing some students to carry on campus; regular drills once a semester or once a quad; and purchasing of more elaborate security systems.
Considering the frequency of incidents in the past few years, and the sheer amount of damage that has been inflicted, the conversation of campus safety seems to be fitting. Public Safety Officer Peter Sola offered insight into Northwestern’s thoughts after the tragedy in Florida, “Last month’s incident…in Florida was tragic and stories are coming out of some of the problems with the response on that day, but hopefully, we can see that as a time for us to remember our training and encourage us to take personal responsibility for our readiness.”
Since Columbine in 1999 and the shooting at Virginia Tech University in 2007, preparedness for an active shooter incident has been a priority for Public Safety. In 2012, together with Northwestern’s Emergency Response Team and members of Ramsey County Sheriff and Ramsey County Emergency Homeland Security Office, the University of Northwestern adopted the RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. response to active shooter situations. Although there have been other responses recommended for dealing with an active shooter/assailant situation, Peter Sola explains that, RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. “seemed to fit UNW the best,” and was the top recommendation from the other security offices.
Officer Sola went on to say that preparation for an active shooter incident isn’t simply to have a protocol in place; currently Northwestern is working with the surrounding community to increase awareness of suspicious activity, “This is a preliminary way of effectively keeping campus safe,” Solas stated. Public Safety has also sought to incorporate students and faculty into the know through an Annual Lockdown Drill, the hope is that a run through will help those on campus feel more confident about their response to a situation. Sola also mentioned that the instructional video for RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. can be easily accessed under the Emergency section of theRock, it takes less than eight minutes to view the entire video and offers a refresher for students on how to respond to an incident.
When asked for his thoughts on campus security, student senator, Benjamin Mueller stated, “Public Safety does a really good job of keeping campus safe because they are so vigilant…[it] has demonstrated that it is able to make the campus safe. We are the fourth safest campus in MN. [Public] safety has definitely stepped up to the challenge of running a safety operation on a college campus in the 21st century.” Business administration major, Rebecca Crowell also affirmed Public Safety, saying, “honestly here, I don’t feel like there’s a huge threat…because Public Safety does such a good job.”
Campus safety isn’t just on the shoulders of Public Safety; students also share responsibility for keeping Northwestern safe. Peter Sola said, “Be aware of things going on around you at all times. Use all your senses to be analyzing your surrounding and if your “Feelers” or your “Spidey Sense” goes off that something is not right, then look into it more. See if it belongs. If it does not seem right, then by all means let Public Safety know.” Mueller echoed Sola’s comment by saying, “…It’s important for us to recognize…and to respect that these things do happen,” and to have, “the courage if you see something to say something. Don’t feel like if you call and its nothing that you are going to be ridiculed, it’s important that you just call. Because safety is better than putting everyone at harm’s way for the sake of not being embarrassed.” Crowell added that campus safety is the responsibility of the students, “You can change someone’s life, you can change what they are going to do just by going up to them and saying hello. Be aware of what’s around you and make an effort to make sure that people are being included and involved.”
February 14, 2018 will be remembered as a tragedy for the community of Parkland, Florida, however the security and community of the University of Northwestern are making sure that a future incident will not occur on this campus.