Emory University’s Office of Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) has begun evaluating the University’s procedures in the event of an active shooter situation on campus in the wake of the Feb. 14 mass high school shooting in Parkland, Fla.
Emory currently follows Texas State University’s Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (ALERRT). Created in 2002, ALERRT is considered the national standard in Active Shooter Response Training by the FBI and focuses on vigorous “force-on-force scenario-based training,” according to its website.
While CEPAR has already established criteria to prevent and respond to an active shooter situation, additional modifications are underway, Senior Administrator of CEPAR Sam Shartar said at a Feb. 27 University Senate meeting.
The University is collaborating with peer institutions, including Duke University (N.C.), Vanderbilt University (Tenn.), Boston University and Georgia Institute of Technology to develop procedures regarding locking doors in case of an armed aggressor.
Emory does not currently have individualized building or room plans for an active shooter situation due to the fluidity and unpredictable nature of those emergency situations, Shartar told the Wheel. CEPAR recommends the “run, hide, fight” active shooter guidelines issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
After the collection phase recommendations, Emory might modify the policy in the next few months, according to Assistant Vice President for Public Safety Craig Watson.
“[The guidelines] are intentionally designed to give individuals a basic understanding of their options so given the uniqueness of whatever the situation is for wherever they are that they can make that choice depending on what’s available to them,” Watson in Emory’s Division of Campus Services said. “There’s no one blanket response that’s correct for everything.”
Shartar said that after the University’s Jan. 1 annexation into Atlanta, the Emory Police Department (EPD) has been working closely with the Atlanta Police Department (APD) and DeKalb County Police Department to ensure that different emergency response agencies understand how to respond to an active shooter.
EPD officers currently undergo annual training, and CEPAR conducts annual full-scale exercises using the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP), according to Shartar.
“We’ll … test certain objectives, and they’ll evaluate how people perform, looking for gaps in performance,” Shartar said. “And then we’ll go back and say, ‘How do we need to adjust this plan? How do we need to provide additional training?’ [Then] we’ll go back and test it again in some other way.”
After the April 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, CEPAR established preventative measures including the Threat Assessment Team, a multidisciplinary unit that consists of counselors, psychologists, attorneys, police officers and human resource professionals who assess reported behaviors that indicate an individual may be on a pathway to violence.
“It’s very common if you look back at all of these instances, including the most recent incident in Parkland, that there is a clear pathway people follow when they become violent like this,” Shartar said. “We are able to do what we can in the constraint of the law to intervene to stop that.”
After CEPAR recognized the need to proactively recognize signs of potential violence, over the past year, CEPAR created a video designed for workplace managers to identify these preliminary signs and report them accordingly. Emory’s staff and faculty are set to view a similar video, as is the student body, according to Shartar.
CEPAR has also been calibrating the language used when disseminating emergency notifications and the activation of sirens. That development is in response to the Sept. 20, 2017, incident, when Emory Alert and EPD issued a “shelter in place” alert after Atlanta VA Health Care System police attempted to arrest an unarmed individual for probation violation. During the nearly-hour long search for the individual in Lullwater preserve some professors barricaded their classroom doors, while other spaces simply advised students not to leave the building, the Wheel previously reported.
“We’ve changed the language [of the emergency notification system] to make it a little more prescriptive and a little more deliberate,” Shartar said.
The updated system will clarify the nature of the threat, where it is occurring and the specific steps one should take. Furthermore, the system will only activate sirens if the situation poses an imminent danger to human life.
Shartar said that CEPAR plans to develop extensive emergency preparedness material and mandatory videos to show incoming freshmen during orientation and update the “Just in Time” guide available on their website.
A full-scale active threat exercise designed to test Emory’s response to an active threat is scheduled for March 14 from 6 a.m. to noon. The drill, coordinated by Emory, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Atlanta Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), will serve as a complex training initiative to test Atlanta metropolitan jurisdictions’ regional response to large-scale crises situations, according to a March 6 University press release.
Shartar stressed the importance of downloading mobile application “LiveSafe” for students, faculty, staff and non-Emory employees. The application, which was released last year, allows users to report tips, contact and immediately receive assistance from EPD, see emergency alerts and virtually escort other users, according to CEPAR’s website.