Stay Safe and Keep on Learning

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Published on April 3, 2015

“To be totally honest I’m not even sure what the school’s policy is. If it was the case I just find the easiest path to the garage,” HCC student Louis Cruze answered when asked what he would do in the event if a shooter entered the campus or a fire broke out.

HCC student Danielle Ball said, “I know there are fire routes to follow that are marked but other than that I’m not sure of the school procedure. I imagine it’s similar to the schools before college.”

It is apparent there is an uncertainty of what to do in emergency situations from the student body.

Here at Housatonic there is a security team that we all know and recognize as they patrol the halls of Lafayette, Beacon and the parking garage, working to keep both the student body and faculty safe everyday from every sort of scenario that might take place; but at the same time as we expect them to protect us they too have expectations of the student body to help curb the risk of panic and maintain safety.

Director of Public Security at Housatonic Police Master Sergeant Christopher K. Gough, in addressing his expectations made it clear that even before a drill or emergency happens, communication between students and members of security is one of the most important things. He stressed that “No matter how small it may seem, if it doesn’t feel necessary or look right do not be afraid to immediately let any of the members of security know,” as they are much more equipped to handle it. The more communication that goes on, the more the security is aware and alert to keep the school safe before an event or evacuation even begins to actually take place.

Not all the drills are the same, and the procedures in which the students are expected to follow are not always the same. Gough explains that in a fire evacuation of the school the main of objective is “escape”. He explains that students should follow the directions of staff as they have been trained to lead the exit from the school quickly and do not linger in the spot they are in.

Talking about the lockdown drills, he feels the word “lockdown” is misleading, and that really these  should be referred to as “Shelter in Place.”  Here the objective is not to exit the campus but find safety within the campus from different threats.

For example, Gough says, if a shooter had entered the campusm the students and faculty should immediately report to the nearest classroom if not in one already, lock the doors, turn off the lights, and remain hidden in the corner while being sure to turn off cell phones and remain silent.

“This type of Shelter in Place drill differs had the situation been a hazmat truck crashed off I-95 near the school.  Instead of having all of the students report to the nearest room for safety, we would instead have them report to a specific area of the school both safe and far away accident,” Gough concludes.

In Gough’s opinion the “soft drills,” which are drills that students have been informed about, are the most effective in teaching them exactly what to do in emergencies but soon they hope to practice with “live drills.” Live drills are when the students are not informed beforehand and are not told that they are in fact a drill during their initiation. So expect the unexpected.

Expectations like these not only come from Gough. Every school has federally mandated Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics, which is a report that summarizes all of the policies regarding security on campus, and Housatonic is no exception.

It elaborates on things like the Shelter in Place procedure and includes the three steps students should take specifically if a shooter has entered the campus. These steps are Run, Hide, and Fight, which encourages students to mainly find shelter and stay down but strictly as a last resort instructs them to fight with whatever they can in order to distract or subdue shooter until authorities arrive.

The report includes ways for students to handle reporting crimes, suspicious activity, policy of drugs on campus, discrimination, and weapons policy and lays out the rules they must ultimately follow.

Students can easily keep both themselves and others safe in emergencies by following these guidelines of the school and being level-headed and calm in moments many would feel the need to panic. In the long run, the more we know the safer we will be and have the chance to keep on learning.