Written by Lori Robinson
Illustration by Madison Otten
Standard Response Protocol training for lockout/lockdown emergencies takes place later this month.
It’s a new semester with new classes, books, friends, instructors and advisors. As students dig into studies at FRCC Westminster, an opportunity also arises for updated training in campus safety.
Expect a fire drill at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18.
Then on Thursday, Sept. 19, the Campus Security Department will host a campus-wide Standard Response Protocol training for lockout and lockdown procedures at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the Timberline Room, CO577.
It’s the first of two SRP trainings scheduled for the 2019-2020 school year, with the second one slated for next February. On March 9, 10, or 11, 2020, the Westminster Campus Security Department will conduct an unannounced lockdown drill. As The Front Page reported last March, a lockout takes place when nearby activity threatens the health and safety of people outside the building. A lockdown, a drill for which Campus Safety conducted last spring, takes place when the threat is indoors.
Just over a month after the springtime lockdown drill, hundreds of schools throughout suburban Denver closed as authorities searched for Florida high school student Sol Pais. Investigations showed that Pais flew to Denver, purchased a firearm, and began making threats against Columbine High School.
Student Nicolette Hammell, 22, said she began learning about lockout/lockdown procedures as a kindergartener with story books on the subject.
“I’m telling you that was wild,” Hammell said about the Pais incident. “Unfortunately it’s becoming something we need to pay more attention to.”
The Pais incident garnered nationwide attention.
“The 20th anniversary of the attack at Columbine High School was supposed to be marked with prayers and memorials,” The New York Times reported in an April 17 article. “Instead, millions of parents, students and educators across Colorado awoke on Wednesday to news that an armed 18-year-old woman with an infatuation with the massacre had flown across the country to Colorado.”
At the conclusion of what was described as a massive manhunt, authorities found Pais dead late April 17 of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at Mt. Evans, about 40 miles west of Columbine.
Campus Security Supervisor Jon R. VanZandt was among the law enforcement officers responding April 20, 1999, to the attack at Columbine High School that left 12 students and one teacher dead, and 20 years later, reportedly inspired Pais.
“I saw firsthand how not being prepared and having an actual emergency plan … ” VanZandt recalled, “… I saw how chaotic that makes it seem. Nobody was prepared for something like that then.
“Now K through 12, they practice lockout/lockdown every month along with fire drills,” the security supervisor said. “They’re programmed with it. If you’re locked out they know what to do. If you’re locked down, they know what to do.
“At the college level, when you call for a lockout or a lockdown, people tend to have a much harder time dealing with this than the K-12 students who practice this on a monthly basis.
“The high school kids? I talk to them every day and I say, ‘If you hear gunshots, what would you do?’ ‘I’d run out that door’ — ‘I’d hide right here’ — they all have a plan. They’re all mentally prepared.
“The adult world, they don’t worry about all those intangibles,” VanZandt added. “That’s our job, to remind them. And we do. A lot.”
Twenty days after the Pais suicide, at STEM School Highlands Ranch, “18-year-old Devon Erickson, and Alec McKineey, 16, were arrested and charged after the May 7 STEM school shooting,” BuzzFeed News reported. “Authorities say they opened fire in a British literature class, room 107, during a screening of ‘The Princess Bride’.”
“One person died in the STEM shooting,” BuzzFeed reported, “Kendrick Castillo, who was one of three students who rushed the older shooter to try to stop him.”
“Public mass shootings are occurring more frequently in recent years,” The Washington Post reported Aug. 5, “and they are claiming more lives.” An uptick began after June 17, 2015, the newspaper said, when “a young white supremacist killed nine people at a Bible study in a historic African American church in Charleston, S.C.”
Before Columbine, mass shootings in America took place roughly every six months, The Washington Post reported, adding, “After Charleston? One almost every six weeks.”
Early in the week of Sept. 1, a 317-reference Wikipedia page on mass shootings in the United States so far this year counted 335 people killed to date.
- Two who were killed April 30 in the University of North Carolina at Charlotte shooting;
- 12 killed May 31 in the Virginia Beach shooting in a city public works building;
- Four killed, including two children, July 28 at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, Calif.;
- 22 killed Aug. 3 at an El Paso Walmart;
- Nine killed Aug. 4 outside a Dayton, Ohio, bar; and
- Eight killed Aug. 31 in Odessa and Midland, Texas, in shootout originating with a traffic stop.
Campus commuters avoid some complications
Law enforcement officers throughout the nation have been tipped off about numerous attack plans in recent weeks, including a plan allegedly hatched by Paul Steber, 19, of Massachusetts. Police arrested Steber when they said they found weapons in his dorm room at High Point University in North Carolina, The Washington Post reported Aug. 29.
“Authorities found ammunition, a 9mm semiautomatic pistol and a double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun, High Point Police said in a news release,” the newspaper reported, adding that Steber was charged with two felony counts of carrying weapons on campus and communicating a threat of mass violence on educational property.
Security Supervisor VanZandt indicated that life is less complicated at the Westminster Campus.
“Here we’re fortunate,” VanZandt said. “We don’t have dormitories. Dormitories tend to have their own unique set of issues.
“We’re a community college. People show up, go to class and leave,” he added. “Ninety-eight percent of the people who come here come, get what they need and leave.”
Over the past two years, the Westminster Campus Security Department has dealt with 135 incidents of vagrancy and panhandling-style offenses from non-student populations, VanZandt said.
“It’s not OK to wander into a school and just walk around,” he said.
Seasoned professional at your service
VanZandt’s law enforcement career spans three decades, two decades of which were devoted to serving as a School Resource Officer and training others to become SROs.
“Never in my wildest dreams had I anticipated having the relationships with the students I have,” VanZandt said. “If they need help, ask. No matter what it is, ask and we’ll find a resource. There’s always something available. Take advantage of everything that’s offered to you.”
What’s more, the security supervisor said, “I tell students all the time. If you see something or hear something, say something.”
Westminster student Terrell Schlegel, 20, said he feels “pretty comfortable” with lockout/lockdown procedures, but added that he’s wary of SRP trainings in which actors use paintball guns to make the action more lifelike.
“That’s creepy,” Schlegel said.
No mock drills with paintball guns are planned for the Sept. 19 training. Brush up on your lockout/lockdown skills anytime with videos on the FRCC website, where you’ll find a video narrated by Kristina Anderson, a survivor of the April 16, 2007, Virginia Tech shooting that claimed 33 lives. In her video, Anderson recommends receiving notifications on campus emergencies and closures via text. Please see the accompanying graphic for instructions on how to receive emergency notifications from FRCC.