By Mikey Domagala
Editor’s Note: In light of recent mass shootings in the U.S., the Pioneer is republishing the university’s guidelines and protocols issued in Feb. 2017 as a public service for the school community.
There have been 317 mass shootings in the United States, close to one every day, in 2017, according to the Gun Violence archive. The harsh reality of mass shootings is that they could occur at any place and anytime. Since 1999, there have been 31 mass school shootings in the United States, which have made worldwide headlines and devastated school communities. The massacres at Columbine High School, Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Virginia Tech University, among others, have led schools, including LIU Post, to strengthen their security protocols and strategize if it were to happen to them.
The LIU Post Department of Public Safety includes 22 full-time, New York State certified security officers. It is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide a safe and secure environment for students, faculty, staff, and visitors on LIU Post’s campus. The department works with the Old Brookville and Old Westbury Police Departments, and the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management. The Public Safety Department created its own guidelines in early 2017, based on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s “Active Shooter: How to Respond” booklet, which includes emergency phone numbers and tactics. The guidelines are on the university website at http://liu.edu/cwpost/Public-safety.
According to the university guidelines, “because active shooter situations are often over within ten-to- fteen minutes before law enforcement [or Public Safety] arrives on the scene, individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with an active shooter situation.” Within that time frame, the guidelines suggests to “take note of the two nearest exits,” “secure the door [in the room],” “if in a hallway, get into a room and secure the door,” and as a last resort, “attempt to take the shooter down.” If an active shooter is in your vicinity, the guidelines call to “escape if possible,” and “hideout where the shooter is less likely to find you while [remaining silent].” If you are the first person to call 911, the guidelines suggest to provide the phone operator with as many details possible, including location of the shooter, the number of shooters, if more than one, physical description of the shooter(s), number and type(s) of weapons, and number of potential victims at the location.
Michael Fevola, who became the Director of Public Safety in August 2017, said his team would rely on text messaging and emails during active shooter situations, although he has not experienced one on campus.
“In the event of an incident including an active shooter, Public Safety has protocols in place and the ability to immediately alert the entire campus community via a mass text/email blast with specific advisements and instructions,” Fevola said. “Those messages can also be used to continuously update the community, alert individuals what areas they should stay away from, and what to do, including the “Run/Hide/ Fight” protocols.” The Pioneer reported that the “Run/Hide/Fight” protocol was instituted in February 2017. “[It was] not in response to something happening, just to keep the campus safe,” Dr. John Lutz, English professor and chair of the faculty council, said in The Pioneer’s article, “Stop, Drop, Roll” published on Feb. 15, 2017. Lutz said, at the time, that faculty members had expressed an interest in learning more about campus procedures during an emergency, which led to a meeting for faculty on Feb. 1. At the meeting, Paul Rapess, the former director of Public Safety who retired last summer, discussed the new procedure, which implemented to keep up to date with happenings.
The Public Safety department routinely conducts joint training exercises with the Old Brookville and Old Westbury Police Departments on campus. With this training in place, local police have a better feel for the campus during emergency situations.
According to LIU Post’s CampusFirearms & Weapons Policy, which is available on the LIU website under ‘University Policies,’ says “the possession of dangerous weapons, including any pistol, revolver, an incendiary bomb, switchblade, dagger or bludgeon, as well as harmless instruments designed to look like weapons are prohibited” on campus. “Other than police officers or military personnel on active duty, no person, including a licensee, may possess rearms anywhere on campus, whether in a building or on the grounds, without the prior written permission of the campus Provost and Director of Public Safety.” Violators of this policy will be subject to immediate disciplinary action and potential criminal prosecution. LIU Post strictly enforces its campus gun policy. As The Pioneer reported several years ago, on Nov. 17, 2011, a 72-year-old criminal justice adjunct professor accidentally shot himself in the groin and leg before his class. Although he was a retired Fire Marshall licensed to carry a weapon, the no weapons policy on campus was strictly enforced and he no longer teaches at LIU Post.
Katherine Hill-Miller, English professor and former dean of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences suggests every student and staff member should sign up for the Public Safety alerts, and said she would follow direction from Public Safety in an emergency.
“My first action would be to check for the text message and follow its directions,” Hill-Miller said. “If a message hadn’t come through, I’d assume that the incident hadn’t been reported, so I’d dial 911 first and then call campus security. Barring any information from anybody, I’d evaluate the situation—if the shooter was close, I’d gather students away from windows and doors in the classroom.”
Freshman education major Amanda Iovino agrees that the public safety alerts would come in handy in times of danger. “The texts are very useful in times of bad weather, and I think if [a school shooting] was to happen, the texts would be crucial.”
Fevola advises students and staff members to always be alert to their surroundings. While school shootings do not happen very often, he stressed that anything could happen, and one person reporting a suspicious person could potentially save lives.
“Stay vigilant and follow the old adage ‘see something, say something,’” Fevola said. “Any odd or unusual behavior should be reported to Public Safety, and we always protect [the] anonymity of the caller.”