The satire of The Onion’s article from last week entitled “Nation celebrates full week without mass shooting,” was replaced with tragic irony some days later when a man opened fire on a coworker and pedestrians in front of the Empire State Building.
The latest in a slew of summer slayings, the shooting served as a stark reminder of the violent headlines that dominated the last few months and hit close to Marquette in August with the Sikh temple shooting in Oak Creek.
In the aftermath, companies, universities, and other organizations are re-examining their emergency response and support procedures.
Marquette’s Emergency Procedures Guide has not been updated since 2007 – the year of the first Virginia Tech shooting – but it is in the process of being revised and should be complete within the next month, according to Senior Lieutenant Paul Mascari, the assistant director of the Department of Public Safety.
The core of the university’s overall response strategy, the Critical Incident Management Plan, contains protocol for announcing a state of emergency on campus, establishing an Emergency Operations Center, emergency notification and communication procedures and mutual aid agreements, according to Marquette’s website.
“Emergency planning is a universitywide effort that includes many departments across campus,” Mascari said. “Marquette has an Event and Emergency Management Plan that conforms with the National Incident Management System – the national standard for emergency preparedness and incident response. Earlier this summer, we conducted a tabletop exercise with representatives across the university, including the senior administration.”
The Department of Public Safety’s staff of armed officers received its initial training for responding to an active shooter several years ago from the Milwaukee Police Department’s Tactical Enforcement Unit, according to Mascari. DPS reviews these exercises in resolving various emergency scenarios several times a year.
“You can be sure that all available officers would respond to this type of incident,” said Mascari. “We work very closely with Milwaukee police and other local law enforcement.”
CIMP is shared with local law enforcement and emergency management agencies nearby. The Milwaukee Police Department’s Police Administration Building and Aurora Sinai Medical Center are both just a couple of blocks away from campus and are capable of responding within minutes.
“DPS has one of MPD’s radios,” said an MPD officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “They would contact us and set up a command center. Then, we’d team up with them and they’d guide us to where we need to go – we’d take it from there.”
To alert students of any emergency, CIMP would use all available means of communication – email, text messaging, the university website, university voice mail, Access TV message boards, postings in buildings both on and off campus and megaphones, among other things, according to the university website.
DPS also controls an electronic lock system that can instantly secure all academic buildings, and all residence halls have a lock-down mechanism at the front desks.
But Wisconsin’s concealed carry law, which passed last year, raises new concerns. Regardless of licenses or legal obtainment, Marquette students are not allowed to carry weapons on university property.
“Weapons have never been allowed on Marquette’s campus,” Mascari said. “Marquette University maintains a ‘no weapons allowed’ policy to the extent permitted under 2011 Wisconsin Act 35.”
But Andrew Kohn, a senior in the College of Business Administration, said that doesn’t make him feel any less safe.
“(Most) people who have guns have gone through the proper channels and training and are exercising their constitutional right,” said Kohn. “I feel like people who want guns for the wrong reason will find a way to get them without a license.”
David Poggi, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said he doesn’t mind the rule restricting guns at Marquette and would rather leave it to professionals to handle an active shooter on campus.
“I probably wouldn’t feel comfortable knowing that other students are carrying weapons around on campus,” Poggi said. “I don’t believe that just because you own a gun and go to the range and shoot you would also know what to do in a situation with an active shooter.”
Kohn added that he would either hide or run away in the presence of an active shooter, but admitted that determining the appropriate response in a state of panic could be problematic.
“It is important to quickly determine the most reasonable way to protect your own life. Depending on the circumstances, it might be necessary for you to evacuate the area, hide out or take action,” Mascari said.
“If you cannot safely evacuate the building, hide in an area out of view and lock or block the doors. As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, act with physical aggression and attempt to incapacitate the shooter.”
You can find more information about Marquette’s emergency response protocol at http://www.marquette.edu/publicsafety/emergency-preparedness.shtml.