An image of the Michigan State University spartan mascot above a red heart with the University of Nebraska logo is posted to UNLPD’s Facebook page
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Police Department posts to their Facebook after the shooting at MSU with the caption, “Sending our love and support to our Michigan State University friends and all of Spartan Nation.” Photo courtesy of UNLPD Facebook.

The recent shooting at Michigan State University that killed three students and left five critically wounded has prompted college campuses to look closer into their active shooter preparedness plans. As campus officials in Nebraska stress the importance of reviewing active shooter procedures, some people wonder why college campuses don’t perform active shooter drills like those in K-12 schools.

Katie Krager, a UNL senior fisheries and wildlife major from Omaha, said performing active shooter drills on college campuses could be beneficial.

“Even though it’s scary to think about, it’s better to feel prepared,” she said.

Campus officials from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Southeast Community College, Nebraska Wesleyan University and the University of Nebraska at Kearney said active shooter drills are difficult to properly execute on college campuses for a few reasons.

One reason is that it’s hard to do a campus-wide drill that reaches all students, according to Southeast Community College’s safety and security coordinator Sam Loos.

“We have a lot of students who are here Monday, Wednesday, Friday and then a different set of students that are Tuesday, Thursday and very few that are here all week long,” Loos said.

Southeast Community College routinely looks into the possibility of doing a campus-wide active shooter drill.

“I believe there’s merit in doing those drills and training people on how to respond, but it is a lot to plan and bring together and make work at the college level,” Loos said.

Jim Davis, UNK Police Department chief, said one of the biggest reasons most college campuses don’t do active shooter drills is because of the way college campuses are built.

“It would almost be like telling a city that you’re going to do an active threat drill,” UNL Police Captain Aaron Pembleton said.

K-12 schools can easily do active shooter drills with only one building, but those drills are much harder to execute on college campuses with several buildings, according to Pembleton.

Amelia Donlin, a UNL freshman nutrition major from Illinois, said she has never been told what to do if an active shooter situation occurred on UNL’s campus but has gone through school lockdown drills in the past that give her an idea of the procedures.

“I feel like I’ve become more vigilant and aware of situations like this as I’ve gotten older and as they continue to be an issue,” Donlin said.

UNKxMSU 300x232 - College students question active shooter drill benefits after Michigan State University shooting
The UNK Police Department posts on their Facebook after the Michigan State University shooting with the caption, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Michigan State University. Praying for all LEO involved and for all affected by this tragedy.” Photo courtesy of UNK Police Facebook.

Because campus-wide active shooter drills are difficult to execute at the college level, Nebraska campus officials urge students and staff to review their school’s active shooter procedures.

Campus-wide alert systems

UNL uses “UNL Alert” to send out mass notifications in emergency situations. According to UNL’s campus safety page, these alerts provide information from UNL Police about the location of the emergency and guidance regarding what students and staff should do to stay safe. Nebraska Wesleyan University uses a similar system called the Wesleyan Alert System, according to Hunter Reeves, public relations director.

UNK’s Chief Davis said their UNK Alert system is pre-programmed with different messages the officers can choose from to get alerts sent out as fast as possible.

One of the alert methods Southeast Community College utilizes, Alertis, sends emergency alerts to any device connected to the school’s network, according to Loos. 

“If a faculty member is teaching a class and using a computer and we pushed out an alert, the alert would take over their screen and display what the message is,” Loos said.

“Run, Hide, Fight.”

According to Reeves, if an active shooter situation were to occur on Nebraska Wesleyan University’s campus, the first thing students should do would be to enact the run, hide, fight procedure. UNL also follows this procedure.

According to the “Run, Hide, Fight” procedure detailed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, students and staff are advised to run if they can find a safe area to evacuate. If they cannot evacuate safely, they should find a secure hiding place while silencing their phone and avoiding windows. Lastly, the run, hide, fight procedure says if there is no other option, confront the shooter and be aggressive. Students and staff are encouraged to follow guidance from law enforcement while their alert systems provide updates during an active shooter situation on campus.

Southeast Community College follows a Standard Response Protocol if an active shooter situation were to occur on its campus. This protocol includes five actions: Hold, secure, lockdown, evacuate and shelter.

“We would initiate a lockdown. We would tell everybody, wherever they are, to try and secure in that space – get out of sight, turn lights off, take cover and wait for an all clear,” Loos said. “In the meantime, we would work on securing the building.”

Active shooter training

UNL’s campus safety page provides a training video from the Center for Personal Protection and Safety. The video details strategies for preventing and surviving an active shooter situation and how to report it to the UNL Police Department.

Davis said the UNK Police Department is introducing a new training called Active Shooter Preparedness Brown Bag Lunch, which begins on March 22.

UNK Police have scheduled active shooter training presentations students can attend during their lunch hour. Students and faculty of UNK can sit down with officers and discuss what to do if an active shooter situation were to occur on their campus. Chief Davis said this training is offered multiple times on a scheduled day so that many students can attend when available. 

Southeast Community College’s safety and security department offers online training videos and are in the process of organizing in-person training opportunities, according to Loos.

“Here at the college, we try and work with individual departments and kind of smaller groups, and we personalize that training to where we can give people tips and suggestions and protocol that relates to their area,” Loos said.

Nebraska Wesleyan University is currently in the process of scheduling in-person active shooter training for employees and students in partnership with the Lincoln Police Department, according to Reeves.

Emily Diesing is a senior journalism major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.