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08 - 14 - 2012

Area university police train to handle situations

Area university police train to handle situations Photo

The shooting in College Station near Texas A&M University is an example of why it is crucial for college campuses to have plans in place for when emergency situations occur, local college police said.


"One of the biggest problems we see in situations like this is people thinking it couldn't happen here," said Capt. Dan Chason of the University of Louisiana at Monroe Police Department.


That is why ULM trains monthly on how to respond to an active shooter, using the latest practices from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, said ULM Police Chief Larry Ellerman.


Ellerman said ULM police officers are all certified trainers of the active shooter response plan and each month they go through a simulated event designed to prepare them for such an occurrence.


Armed with simulated firearms and wearing full body armor, the officers are thrown into a situation involving a shooter on campus, Ellerman said.


The shooter is given a gun that shoots rubber, non-lethal bullets to simulate the sound of gunfire and the threat of being shot, he said, adding that it's up to officers to safely and effectively locate the shooter and eliminate the threat.


"We try to make it as realistic as possible," Ellerman said.


Chason said officers from other law enforcement agencies in the area participate in some of the training exercises, which take place on ULM's campus or sometimes at area high schools.


The scenarios vary and distractions such as loud music and smoke are often added to create a chaotic environment, Chason said.


"We go through all of the things we could possibly come up with," he said. "The reason we do it is to create stress inoculation, which prepares them to handle situations of high stress and they can develop good habits."


When incidents such as the one near Texas A&M occur, Chason said ULM police evaluate how they would have responded to a similar situation and if they would have done anything differently.


Chason said training is also provided to faculty, staff and students to promote situational awareness and the proper ways to respond during a critical incident.


Ellerman said ULM also utilizes 900 cameras around campus in order to help monitor the grounds.


Additionally, the campus would be notified of any danger or threat via email and phone messages, both text and voice, using the FirstCall Emergency Notification System, which is used by all Louisiana colleges and is funded by the Board of Regents.


Louisiana Tech University Police Chief Randal Hermes said communication is critical during a disaster situation.


In addition to FirstCall, Louisiana Tech has an emergency response team consisting of 16 members from across campus, including university president Dan Reneau, he said.


Hermes said it is up to the response team to decide how the campus will proceed and what measures need to be taken, whether it's putting the campus on lockdown or issuing a campus wide warning.


"It's all about communication," he said. "Our guys are trained to respond and react as quickly as possible."


Hermes said Louisiana Tech police officers remain up-to-date on active shooter training, as well.


Charlie Davis, chief of campus safety at Louisiana Delta Community College, said Delta has a good working relationship with local law enforcement and, if an emergency situation occurs, they would be contacted.


He said the college has a lockdown procedure that would go into effect until the police gave the all clear.


Although Delta has a response plan, Davis said the college prefers to take a more proactive stance in preventing crises on campus.


He said the college is in the process of ensuring campus security coverage on all of its eight campuses.

The college is also in the process of implementing a software system that would track a student's misconduct in order to identify a potential problem ahead of time, Davis said.


"Our philosophy is to be proactive. We try to identify potential problems beforehand," he said.


Grambling State University Police could not be reached.