School violence: ‘Prepare and hope it doesn’t happen’

Police search students outside Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015, following a deadly shooting at the college.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It was only the fourth day back to school for the Fall semester. Schedules, class locations and new books were most likely top of mind for the roughly 3,000 students at Umpqua Community College in southwest Oregon.

When gunshots were suddenly heard on campus around 10:30 a.m. Thursday, many students didn’t know what was happening until fellow students came running, screaming, ‘active shooter’ and ‘he has a gun.’ By the time it was over, at least 10 people, including the gunman, were dead.

Such violence couldn’t possibly have been expected, but Jason Russell, the CEO of Secure Education Consultants in Caledonia, says it needs to be anticipated.

“Let’s prepare for it and hope it doesn’t happen,” Russell told 24 Hour News 8 on Thursday.

Also a former Secret Service agent, Russell now  shows schools across West Michigan how to spot a threat, prevent school violence and then how to handle it. In studying the deadly shooting in Oregon, Russell immediately spotted flaws in the response.

“There’s some indication that he may have moved between one or two buildings, which to me indicates a poor alert system,” he said.

Russell says schools should have a clear communication system to alert everyone on campus about a threat so there is an immediate evacuation and lockdown.

“The extent to which you can alert everybody across the building quickly and get them locked down is directly correlated to how well people will navigate that incident. We have fire alarms for fire but we don’t have anything for a lockdown yet. That’s something we need to work on,” Russell said.

Russell said some schools do have alarms specific to a lockdown, but that West Michigan needs improvement in that area.

Other concerns he sees at West Michigan schools: a lack of emergency training and apprehension to admit campus violence can happen.

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