(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University Campus Police hosted a lecture earlier this month intended to share information on how to survive an active shooter situation.
The presentation Sept. 16, entitled “Surviving When Your Campus Comes Under Attack,” was part of Winthrop’s inaugural Safety Week.
Lt. Charles Yearta, of WUPD, opened the lecture by defining the term active shooter. “You may think this is a straightforward thing; it’s not. The federal government regularly revises what they define as an active shooter,” Yearta said.
“This is the current definition that we’re working under. This is the one that the FBI and Homeland Security finally got together and agreed on,” he said. “It is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill numerous people in a confined and populated area.”
While some mass attacks on campuses do not include guns, such as the 2016 vehicle-ramming and stabbing attack at Ohio State University, but Yearta said in most cases the perpetrator of the attack will use a firearm.
According to the FBI, there have been 75 active shooter incidents at schools in the U.S. from 2000 to the end of 2018. Yearta said 15 of those attacks were carried out at “institutions of higher education,” which includes two and four-year schools.
“Out of those shootings, 163 victims have been killed, 270 have been wounded, for a total of 437,” Yearta said. “And 290 of those victims were students at some level.”
Most of the active shooter incidents are “over in five minutes or less,” he said. “From start to finish, five minutes is all we’re talking about.”
In the wake of campus shootings, such at the one at Virginia Tech in 2007, the federal government advised schools to create behavioral intervention teams (or BITs), which are groups tasked with identifying potentially disruptive or violent behavior.
Yearta said the team at Winthrop is made up of members and representatives from campus police, campus healthcare, the dean of students office and residence life. He said these groups deal with the student population most often and can work together to identify students who may need extra attention.
A person who finds themselves in an active shooting situation has three courses of action, including running away, hiding or fighting. Winthrop has placed placards across campus featuring the “run, hide, fight” method, which comes from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
DHS recommends identifying multiple exits in each building a person enters to make escaping easier, securing the door to a room should one decide to hide and only attempting to take down a shooter as a final resort.
Yearta said everyone should have the mindset of figuring out an escape route for the buildings they work in or have classes in.
Students are encouraged to report activity they find suspicious or concerning, especially if they think a potentially violent event might take place.
Yearta said students can come to campus police to report an incident and WUPD will create a report that will be shared with the behavioral intervention team, which will review the information. He said students can also report their concerns to the dean of students office or health and counseling services.
“It doesn’t matter how it gets reported, it’ll get funneled into that same network,” he said. “The most important thing though is that it gets reported.”