When two Columbine High School students shot and killed 12 classmates and a teacher, it forever changed the way that law enforcement agencies respond to active shooter incidents.
Gone are the days of waiting for the SWAT team to arrive. The first police officers on scene are now expected to immediately assess the threat and minimize additional injuries and loss of life.
About a year after the 1999 Columbine tragedy, the University of Colorado Police Department started to hold annual all-day Rapid Emergency Deployment training. This drill requires UCPD officers to respond to an active shooter simulation and neutralize the threat – whether that be arresting or shooting the suspect.
A session of that training was held last week in the vacant McAllister Building on CU-Boulder’s East Campus. Several volunteers acted as suspects and victims, while about a dozen UCPD officers responded to the incident.
Officers used handguns and rifles that appear to be real weapons, but fire plastic pellets. UCPD Officer Steve Cowles, a training instructor who also serves on the Boulder Police Department SWAT team, said the drill is supposed to be as lifelike as possible – with changing scenarios.
“We want to create some tension and some anxiety for the officers because nobody wants to get hit,” Cowles said.
It’s not just the officers who need to be ready for such a threat. The CU Police Department encourages the public to get educated on active shooter response.
UCPD strongly encourages all CU-Boulder students, faculty and staff to sign up for Campus Alerts. More than 31,000 CU-Boulder affiliates have signed up for this service. The university uses this service to send text and e-mail alerts during emergency situations.
UCPD also strongly encourages all CU students, faculty and staff to watch the “Shots Fired” video on the CU Police website. This video (which requires a CU affiliate’s IdentiKey) informs the public on what they should do during an active shooter incident. The City of Houston has also produced an informative video on active shooter response called “RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. Surviving an Active Shooter Event.”
UCPD offers the following tips for what to do during such an incident:
- Run: If safe, get away from where the shooting is occurring.
- Hide: If you cannot escape, find a secure area to hide. Lock doors. Turn off lights. Silence phones. Look for potential weapons, such as chairs.
- Fight: If a shooter appears to be ready to harm you, fight back. Use improvised weapons. Tackle the shooter. Take away the suspect’s weapon. Hold the suspect until police arrive.
Photo: University of Colorado Police Officer Ellis Von Rivenburgh participates in UCPD’s annual Rapid Emergency Deployment training on East Campus on Jan. 16, 2013. (Ryan Huff/CU Police)
By Ryan Huff, CU Police Communications Manager