By: Cody Boteler, Editor-in-Chief
While the circumstances surrounding the Ohio State University shooting* aren’t, at the time of writing, entirely clear, one thing is—Towson University Police officials are prepared, and have been preparing, for emergency scenarios on campus.
“I don’t know how well it’s known, but our police officers were being trained on how to respond to active shooters even prior to the Virginia Tech shooting,” Chief of Police Bernie Gerst said.
And, recently, that training has been extended to the entire campus community, through a program known as Citizen Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE).
Through CRASE, where participants are trained to “avoid, deny and defend” in active shooter situations, TUPD has trained over 1,500 TU employees, faculty and staff and over 900 students.
Gerst said that, though CRASE uses terminology that’s a little different than the standard “run, hide, fight” used on other campuses—including OSU—the meaning is essentially the same.
You “avoid” the situation by running or evacuating, “deny” the assailant access by hiding and, “as a last resort, that’s when you may need to defend yourself, or as a group, defending the room full of people,” Gerst said. “Fighting, if for some reason, avoid and deny don’t work.”
TU Police offer monthly CRASE training on a regular schedule. Offices, residence hall floors, departments or other groups can request training, though, and someone from TUPD can come to a specific location.
“If we’re going into your building, that way we can look around your workspace where you’re working, your environment, and give you hands-on, room-specific recommendations,” Gerst said.
To arrange a place-specific training, Gerst said individuals or groups can contact Cpl. Joseph Gregory at 410-704-5951 or call the TUPD non-emergency number (410-704-2505) and be connected to someone.
“I will never become complacent about any of this,” Gerst said. “On a comparative basis, I like to think we’re pretty good to others. We will continue to work [and] we will continue to train.”
Towson University is on the front-end of emergency preparedness in other ways. The TUPD are planning for what Gerst called a “family assistance center,” where family members of students could congregate for support and information in the event of an emergency on campus.
Towson is also working to create a hospital liaison program, so that if there were to be a mass casualty event on campus, a team of trained TU representatives could be dispatched to area hospitals to set up communication with the University. That way, any parents or family members going to area hospitals looking for their students would see and have a TU presence at the hospital.
Police officials are also working to designate “triage” areas around campus and in different buildings, to assess students who may be physically or psychologically harmed after a campus emergency—or to find students who may have witnessed anything. Officials are also working to retrofit doors around campus so that they can be locked from the inside.
Gerst said that, when some of the buildings on campus were constructed, there wasn’t a need to put locks inside classroom doors.
Towson University also offers MAKE IT training, which is a course that teaches civilians how to treat themselves and others while waiting for first responders following an active shooter event.
Officials from the Health Center did not respond to requests for comment about the MAKE IT training.
Gerst said that the best way to be prepared for an emergency situation is to prevent them from happening, which is why he said it’s important to have a strong counseling center and staff support services. He also said that members of the University community should stay connected to alerts from public safety officials through the text alert system.
“The system we have is an opt-in system,” Gerst said. “It’s totally crazy to not opt-in. It’s one of the best tools you can have.”
*This story has been edited. The headline initially read “shooting,” instead of “attack.”