Surveillance footage released of police officer Scot Peterson on the day of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School shooting has called into question police responses to an armed intruder at a school. Muhlenberg College Campus Safety, at least, has a plan to combat such a threat, explained Brian Fidati, Director of Campus Safety and Chief of Police.
“Campus Safety takes a four-pronged approach to an armed intruder response: training, education, drills, and exercises,” said Fidati. “Training involves hands-on department and interagency training, last conducted in August 2017. Education takes place in the form of fitness and wellness classes and presentations to various college departments across campus.”
The education of the campus occurs continuously, Fidati added.
“Drills consist of lock-down drills beginning with last academic year and conducted once each semester,” said Fidati, “and emergency evacuation drills which are conducted at least once each semester in every residential space. Exercises are conducted once a year in the form of tabletop exercises involving key college administrators and employees, along with a variety of outside agencies, and are designed to test the College’s emergency plan.”
“Data shows us that the Muhlenberg College campus and surrounding area remains a safe location as it pertains to ‘gun violence.’”
Additionally, the crisis response guidelines on the Campus Safety web page provides suggested responses to keep students safe should they find themselves in an armed intruder situation. The page recommends that students call campus safety, do their best to either calmly distance themselves from the scene, barricade themselves in a room away from windows until an “all clear” is given in a recognizable voice, or, in a hostage situation, to remain seated and if “hiding or flight is impossible, attempt to negotiate with the individual.”
In the event of an armed intruder situation, Campus Safety gathers basic information, notifies the Allentown Police dispatch center, and sends an officer to the scene, explained Fidati.
“The first responding officer is trained to immediately locate and confront the armed intruder, then take the necessary measures to prevent that intruder from causing any further harm to others,” said Fidati. “Other responding officers will coordinate their response based on the first officer’s location and situational assessment. Necessary measures may ultimately involve the use of the officers’ weapons to stop the action of the armed intruder.” Students would be notified in the event of an armed intruder from communications, as opposed to campus safety.
Additionally, only law enforcement and campus safety officers are allowed to carry weapons on campus, as per the College’s Firearms and Other Weapons Policy, and Section 8.5 of the staff handbook. The first warns students against confiscation and disciplinary action for possession of “firearms, ammunition, air guns (bb/pellet), any bombs, grenade, blackjack, metal, knuckles, spring type weapons, slingshots, martial arts weaponry, knives, swords, switchblades daggers, darts, dartboards, paintball guns, simulated weapons altered to appear as an actual firearm, stun guns, stun batons, taser or any other electronic or electric weapon, whips, or other implementation of serious bodily injury which serve no common lawful purpose” on campus or college-owned properties.
Items that have a common lawful purpose, explained Fidati, are items which have a practical, everyday use as well as a potential to become a weapon. A knife, for example, can be used to cut food, which is its “common lawful purpose.”
Pepper spray, however, is not included in the list of items. The point of pepper spray, Fidati explained, is for defense. Additionally, pepper spray is sold in convenience stores — including the ‘Berg Bookshop.
According to the College’s annual safety report, only 4 of the 599 possession crimes reported between 2014 and 2016 dealt with firearms. The rest were liquor and drug violations, which made up the bulk of reported incidents.
The two most prominent weapons-related incidents in recent memory include the robbery in Benfer on Oct. 24, 2017, where two unidentified individuals took money at gunpoint from students and ran. In 2011, there was a robbery at an off-campus, but student-occupied residency.
“While one armed robbery on campus and another one off campus in the past seven years are two too many, data shows us that the Muhlenberg College campus and surrounding area remains a safe location as it pertains to ‘gun violence.’” said Fidati.
As always, report suspicious incidents to Campus Safety at 484-664-3110 or dial 3110 on any campus phone.