On October 24, 2019, LaGrange College participated in an active shooter drill on campus. Campus administration worked extensively with the LaGrange Police Department in order to prepare for the event, and students were notified via email days before the event. The question heard most in classes and around campus was, “What are we supposed to do if this ever does happen?” This training opportunity for LaGrange Police Department (LPD) and college faculty, staff, and students answered this question in a very realistic way.
Some LaGrange College students may be familiar with active shooter drills. I remember having them at my high school multiple times. However, this was the first drill I had experienced on a college campus, and I was unsure with how extensive the training would be and if anyone would even take it seriously. With blank shots serving as an abrupt wake-up call, this was a drill that was certainly realistic.
Unfortunately, mass shootings, and especially school shootings, are not uncommon happenings. According to a study by the FBI, the frequency of active shooter incidents is increasing yearly. It has more than doubled since 2000. In the last twenty years, fifteen active shooter incidents have occurred at institutions of higher education, like colleges. This means that education environments are the second most likely place for attacks to happen.
The drill included a variety of volunteers: seventeen uniformed LPD officers with non-firing weapons, ten LPD safety players to monitor responding officers, ten LPD volunteers, and twenty college volunteers serving as role players. These people worked together to execute a scenario planned by the police department. The drill covered the entire campus, beginning in the plaza by Pitts Dining Hall and continuing to the Callaway Science Building. The main campus was not the only focus. Police even expanded the search to Price Theatre to train for a hostage situation as well.
LaGrange College did not decide to do this drill out of the blue. In 2016, the Human Resources and Safety Council led the first active shooter training at LaGrange College. After being contacted to be the site of a training drill during the late summer, college administrators happily agreed. Plans for the drill began shortly after the start of fall semester in order to make sure everyone was ready.
When asked why the training happened again, Dawn Coker from human resources responded, “When [we were] approached by LPD to partner on this drill, we were eager to have the opportunity to evaluate response time, emergency alert systems, and how well we follow protocol in an active threat situation.” Not only was this a way to prepare members of LaGrange College, but it was also a training session for the police department. This drill took place as a part of the LPD’s annual week-long active threat training for law enforcement and emergency personnel.
Students had varying reactions to the drill. Many students went home briefly or chose that day to run necessary errands while the campus was on lockdown. Some professors even cancelled their Thursday morning classes to ensure that students were not forced to walk across campus during the drill.
Overall, students agreed that the drill was necessary. Puja Roy, a nursing major, believes that the drill was needed because “shooting threats are no longer just threats.” Roy also commented on the use of blank shots, saying, “The blank shots were actually, I feel, a good idea. It brings a factor of reality to the drill…These threats are serious and should be taken as such.”
Mercedes Smith agreed with Puja, noting, “The blank shots that were fired were appropriate and needed. In a real-life situation…there would probably be more shots than what they fired, and hearing them allowed students to experience what could actually happen.”
Personally, I agree with administration, Puja, and Mercedes. Mass shootings are not uncommon. There have been twenty-one mass shootings in 2019, as of October 1, according to ABC News. A number of those occur at colleges, high schools, middle schools, and even elementary schools. Because of this, active shooter drills have fallen into schedule with fire and severe weather drills.
While it is outrageous that we, as college students from eighteen to mid-twenties, have to consider this risk, we should not walk around campus in perpetual fear. However, we have to be prepared. We have to be educated. We have to be aware.
Jayme is the editor-in-chief for The Hilltop News for the 2019-2020 school year. She is a junior English major from Hogansville, Georgia. She is also a member of the LaGrange College Marching Panthers and a tutor in the Writing Center.