BY MICHELLE BILTON
Sheridan has updated its active shooter procedure this year. Everyone must now decide whether they need to get out, hide or defend themselves if the situation arises.
The old lockdown procedure instructs students and faculty to lock the door, turn off the lights and hide, this is no longer the case at Sheridan. The new procedure is used by many U.S. schools. It has been endorsed by the RCMP and the FBI. The Halton and Peel police were consulted on Sheridan’s new procedure. An active shooter is defined as an individual who intends to kill people in a public area with a firearm, knife or other weapon, according to the procedure.
According to Darby Pierson, emergency preparedness and fire safety specialist at the Office of Campus Safety, now it’s up to the individual to assess their situation if there is an active shooter on campus. In the event of an active shooter, you will hear an alarm go off, it will say “violence alert, violence alert, get out, hide, defend”.
“The research is indicating that your best chance of survival is get out. If you can’t hide then you need to defend yourself,” says Pierson. If you are unable to get out or there is nowhere to hide, your last option is defend.
“Barricade yourself if possible. New in this procedure is the third option, which is your last resort, and that’s defend. Unfortunately, in these situations active shooters don’t respond to reason. If you are in a situation where you can’t get out, you can no longer hide, we want you to take actions to defend yourself,” says Pierson, who is leading this initiative.
She is encouraging everyone to think ahead of time.
“Just in your daily life, where you spend the most of your time here at Sheridan, whether that’s your office, your class, or where you like to study or hang out, we want people to take the time to look around and say ‘if the unthinkable happens right now, what are my options? And what should I do?’ ”
Pierson explains you should use objects like fire extinguishers and other classroom items to protect yourself as a last resort.
Currently, the procedure is in its early stages. All employees will be receiving mandatory training within the upcoming months. “We’re going to be doing a communication strategy to make it widely known. And in the spring we hope to do a drill,” she says.
Despite the unlikeliness of an active shooter, Pierson is prompting everyone to remember that it’s not impossible. “We do our best to make sure people feel empowered to make decisions if the unthinkable happens. I’m not sure anyone ever really feels ready for that situation but I hope that people are receiving our message and taking the time before an emergency to consider their options.”
In the event of an active shooter, security will press a button and a siren will go off everywhere on campus. Also, through the Sheridan alert app, those who have the app will receive a push notification.
Pierson believes that police are well-equipped to handle an active shooter at Sheridan.
“We provide police with all of our floor plans and keys to the campus, so in the event of an active shooter or other emergencies they’re familiar with our building. They have access to the information they need and they have a way to enter the spaces they need to,” she says. Sheridan is a part of the School Police Emergency Action Response program which creates and provides school tactical evacuation plans.
“Members of the Halton Regional Police Service are well-trained and well-equipped to deal with any threat up to and including an active shooter or attacker situation. All operational members have been trained and receive continuous upgrade training in de-escalation methods, use of force and active shooter response,” says Ivan L’Ortye, Halton police executive officer.
According to CNN, there have been at least 288 school shootings in the United States since 2009. School shootings are widely known as more common in the U.S., but Canada has not been immune to this threat.
In 2008, a student holding a tripod was mistaken for an active shooter and there was a lockdown at the Trafalgar Campus. Pierson recommends that you shouldn’t ignore anything you deem suspicious.
“In general, you should always err on the side of caution, so if you see something that makes you uncomfortable or you’re not really sure what that is you should definitely report that to security and we can definitely follow up on that,” she says.