In 1999, two shooters at Columbine High School in Co. killed 13 people in one of the deadliest massacres at a high school in American history.
In 2007, a shooter killed thirty-two people at Va. Tech, where just last year, a police officer was shot and killed during a traffic stop. These events have led to a new culture of emergency preparedness on college campuses including Tech.
“The [Columbine] incident prompted a new era of thought regarding police response to these types of situations,” said Robert Connolly, Deputy Chief of Police at Tech. “We no longer wait for a special team to come onto the scene and handle the situation. We now react to an active shooter with immediate contact to neutralize the situation, saving lives.”
In the event of an emergency, students are first advised to contact the authorities and can do so in a number of ways made available by the Institute. Illuminated blue call posts are visible from almost any location on campus, and are connected to the police dispatcher at the push of a button. The police may also be reached directly or via patch from the universal 911 number. The new Jacket Guardian system includes a distress feature, contacting the police directly with preloaded personal information and GPS location. GTPD has reduced officer response times to less than five minutes for anywhere on campus.
Of the 81 officers, 12 to 15 officers are on duty at all times to respond to such alerts. Officers receive tailored training in conjunction with the City of Atlanta Police and MARTA Police on how to react to an active shooter situation at a specialized facility on 14th Street. There, they simulate and streamline their unified response plan.
The agencies would work together in the event of an emergency through a single Incidence Command System (ICS), developed by FEMA. The ICS simplifies problems such as logistics and authority delegation, allowing the departments to instantaneously adopt an integrated organizational structure to efficiently respond to threats such as a shooter on the Institute’s campus.
The Tech Emergency Alert System is the primary mode used by the Institute to convey information about campus emergencies. The system alerts the Tech community by sending emails, voicemail and text messages to all subscribers. Computers and projectors automatically display important information during a crisis through another automated system.
“We’re more prepared now than we were prior to the Columbine shooting or the Va. Tech shootings,” Connolly said.