RMU is prepared in event of shooter on campus

With two college campus shootings happening within eight days of each other earlier this month, questions have been raised about how the Robert Morris Police Department would handle an active shooter situation.

“Every time you get a shooting, people get more jittery. That’s just nature. I mean, we get questioned as a department as ‘What are you guys going to do?’” said Lieutenant Charles Spencer of RMU Public Safety.

Students, faculty, and staff should feel safe knowing Public Safety has a plan for an event like a campus shooting. Every officer is trained to handle events such as shootings or heavy violence. ALERRT, or Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response training, is a training that breaks down the specifics on how to respond to the situation.

The main goal is to stop the threat.

“If we got a call that there was an active shooter, our initial goal is to stop the shooter—that’s what we do… From a police department standpoint, our initial goal is to stop the shooting, stop the violence, and end it…,” said Officer Nicholas DeRusso, firearm instructor and training officer. “We are going to find out where he is at, respond there, and deal with the threat once we’re there.”

Our initial goal is to stop the shooting, stop the violence, and end it.”

— Nicholas DeRusso

DeRusso discussed how each of the officers have to qualify twice a year for the guns that they carry. This includes their handguns as well as the rifles in the vehicles. These qualifications are all based on state standards and are the same as any municipality would have to go through.

RMU Alert is an emergency notification system used by the university to make students, faculty, and staff aware of important information on campus. In the cause of a campus shooting, a notification would go out once the department became aware of what is going on.

“That message could contain any information. Whether you should stay where you’re at, whether you should evacuate, that’s the point of the message. It’s going to contain instructions on what to do,” said DeRusso.

Lieutenant Spencer and Detective Scott Page discussed how things are now changing. They say that one should fight for their life if he or she is unable to get away. Distract the shooter by throwing things at them or charge the person to shock them. Simply hiding isn’t enough to save lives anymore.

“If it comes down to the point you get trapped in a room with a shooter, the days of people just hiding in the room when somebody is shooting there is done because they’re walking around looking for the people that are hiding,” Spencer said.

The concept of fighting back is not something that everyone agrees on. Page said by getting many people to charge the shooter, they will not be able to hit everyone. Ben Carson, a GOP 2016 presidential candidate, would agree with Detective Page on that concept.

While responding to the mass shooting in Oregon, Carson said he “would not just stand there and let him shoot me. I would say, ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me but he can’t get us all,’” according to NBC News.

The candidate received much backlash for this statement since the Department of Homeland Security recommends that fighting an active shooter should be a “last resort” and only used “when your life is in imminent danger.” Their recommendation is to evacuate or hide before any attacking.

This is what both Spencer and Page say is no longer working for people in these types of situations. They suggest knowing your surroundings, remaining calm, and fighting back if you are unable to evacuate. The most important thing according to Page is to breathe. This helps to calm down nerves and get people to think.

The RMU Police Department is prepared and well trained for the case of a possible active shooter. This doesn’t mean that the officers still are not rattled as to all of the tragedies that have been occurring in the U.S. The idea of situations such as these are becoming more common, which is a new concept nowadays.

“It’s a scary thought, but (in) this day and age you have to sit back and really think. I mean, when I was growing up we didn’t worry about (anyone) coming to a school shooting,” said Spencer.

In a recent email sent out by Interim President Jamison, he discussed procedures for such an event at Robert Morris. The university believes that the safety and security of everyone on the campus is its first priority.

“In addition to our Campus Police department, RMU has an engaged Emergency Management Committee that includes representatives of several campus departments, including police, Student Life, Academic Affairs, Facilities, Information Technology, Public Relations and Marketing, and Legal Affairs,” Jamison stated in his email. “This group is part of the larger university Safety Committee whose mission is to keep all members of our community free from harm even as we go about the day-to-day business of teaching and learning.”