Tracy Heu was sitting in class one day when she heard a loud bang from the back of the classroom.
She turned around to see a student holding a weapon, firing what seemed to be a warning shot. Heu, 30, was forced to lie on the ground next to her fellow classmates and watch them get shot one by one.
There have been multiple incidents over the past few years mimicking the incident that happened at the Umpqua Community College in Oregon on Oct. 2, 2015, and each is as devastating as the last.
Multiple studies have been released providing contradicting information about the rise in mass shootings. While these studies struggle to define what is considered a mass shooting, respondents of crisis situations encourage students to be prepared for these scenarios.
BYU is equipped with officers who are able to respond in an active gunman situation. They also provide material and tools, such as the Shots Fired video and the Y-Alert mass alert system, for students on how to handle active gunman situations.
The University Police also work closely with state and local police to ensure campus safety. Shots Fired is an educational video created by the Center for Personal Protection and Safety. The 20-minute video hosted by Randy Spivey and Jim Sporleder goes over six survival tools: get out, call out, hide out, keep out, spread out and help out.
Lt. Arnold Lemmon of the University Police mentioned a mass shooting situation in which an individual was better prepared, or “empowered,” because he watched the Shots Fired video.
“We know Shots Fired works,” Lemmon said. “It is important to be prepared for these situations.”
Lemmon warns that unless students are better prepared for these situations, and more aware of their surroundings, they will revert to an instinctual state which can put them in danger if they are not thinking clearly.
“We know that unless you play it through your mind — if you don’t do ‘what ifs’ — you will return to the basics: fight or flight,” Lemmon said.
The Y-Alert system, which Lemmon advises all students to participate in, is a mass messaging system that serves to warn students of criminal activity on campus. This system will send out mass emails and texts to students if there is an incident on or near campus. This alert system is mandated by law and is specifically designed to help keep students safe and alert.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation put out a study on active shooter incidents in the United States. The study cites the victims and casualties of these occurrences from 2000 to 2013.
“Casualties (victims killed and wounded) totaled 1,043. The individual shooters are not included in this total,” according to the FBI. “A total of 486 individuals were killed (and) a total of 557 individuals were wounded.”
Public information officer for the Provo Police Department Paul Shade said media coverage, and the attention these events garner, may be the reason individuals view mass shootings as an option to get their message to a national audience.
“I think part of the issue would be that because the world gets out of all these mass shootings to the media and Internet and other resources we have, that people who are in a crisis, or whatever the case may be, are more familiar with that option … to get whatever message across that they are trying to send,” Shade said.
According to the Pew Research Center, “Both USA Today and the FBI define a “mass killing” as an incident with at least four victims, excluding the killer. (A March 2013 report by the Congressional Research Service, which identified 78 public mass shootings in the U.S. between 1983 and 2012, used a similar definition.)”
The FBI released a report stating that between the years 2007 and 2013 there were, on average, 16.4 shootings compared to the average from the years 2000 and 2006 which was 6.4 shootings annually.
Officer Gary Keller, executive officer for South Salt Lake Police, also warns students to be aware of their surroundings.
“As a student on a campus, you know what the norm is. If something doesn’t seem right there’s a good chance it isn’t right and should be reported,” Keller said.
Be vigilant of suspicious individuals, cars, circumstances and behaviors that don’t belong in a campus atmosphere, Keller went on to add.
“Your personal safety is paramount,” Shade said. “If it is safe to do so and people are able to get information out … physical descriptions, locations or how many shooters there are, those key elements that first respondents need to know to respond quickly and effectively is crucial.”