The First 30 Minutes of an Emergency

Patrick Fiel

The 2009-10 school year has opened with dozens of shootings, other violent crimes and campus lockdowns across the country – from elementary schools to universities. Fortunately, nothing has approached the type of tragedy we’ve seen in recent years at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University.

We asked Patrick Fiel, public safety advisor for ADT Security Services, what campus administrators can do limit the possibility of injury or death when someone starts shooting.

“It’s largely about what steps are taken in the first 30 minutes following the report of a gunman on campus,” he said. “By reacting quickly and correctly, it is possible to limit further injuries or death.”

He listed several steps that should be immediately implemented, including:

• Respond to the reported scene of the shooting to verify what happened.

• Once it is determined there is a situation, implement the campus crisis plan.

• Seek additional support from outside agencies – police, medical and fire personnel.

• Try to determine if the shooter is still on campus and whether the shooting was a suicide, the result of a domestic argument or some other cause.

• Use a mass notification system and other means to communicate with students, staff and faculty to provide them with vital information.

• Consider a campus lockdown to keep anyone from leaving or entering the grounds until the event is under control.

“An emergency situation where people’s lives are in jeopardy requires a planned and controlled response,” he said. “This is true not only for schools, but also for any government or corporate facility. I always remind people that you can never plan too much.”

-- PSW Staff