Two campus security officers dressed in paramilitary gear walked into the College of the Canyons Learning Center on Wednesday. Gunshots sounded and people ran for cover.
It was all part of an annual Emergency Preparedness Drill and active shooter simulation staged by COC administrators to help staff know how to respond in crises.
This month, Newtown, Conn. recently remembered the one-year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. And more recently the November shooting of a TSA agent at LAX hit close to home.
With the frequency of such crimes seeming to increase, COC wants to ensure that its staff are prepared to deal with a potentially deadly situation.
At least 150 staff members gathered at TLC to learn and practice the best way to respond if a shooter is reported on campus.
COC Spokesman Eric Harnish said that this training was the “culmination of what we have been working on throughout the year.”
Previously, they had done active shooter simulations in a small classroom setting with 20 to 30 people at a time. Thirty of the college’s administrators have already undergone Incident Command System training, a program created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“(They are) trained to respond to any emergency of any size on campus,” Harnish said, such as a brush fire or an earthquake.
After watching several safety videos, about 10 people gathered in one of TLC’s classrooms to practice what they had learned, while the rest of staff members looked on.
Michael Wilding, assistant superintendent and vice president of Student Services, emphasized the importance of finding a safe hiding spot, locking or barring the door and working as a team.
Staff then started receiving text messages that two shooters was on campus. The shooters entered the building not long after, but using what they had learned, several staff members were able to successfully subdue both assailants.
Kelsey Hall, Gabby Burgos and Corteny Thomas were all hiding in the classroom that the shooters entered and helped to bring them down.
Hall described it as “pretty intense.”
Tom Marshall, former law enforcement and a campus safety officer who played one of the shooters, said that he had done this type of simulation before.
“It’s not for me; it’s for the participants,” he said, to teach those who have never experienced that kind of situation.
Harnish said that doing a simulation with so many people created “a little more realistic (situation), because it’s not just a small group of people in a classroom.”
COC has been proactively training its staff for about five years, thanks to the encouragement of Chancellor Dianne Van Hook.
“Years ago, the chancellor decided that the college needed to have a better posture for emergency preparation,” Wilding said.
He said that they will begin training students during the spring semester and come up with a new theme for the Emergency Preparedness Drill every year.
“(We’re) constantly working to become prepared,” Wilding said. “…We’ll never be completely satisfied or complacent.”