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Campus Police at Otterbein, Larry Banaszak

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Student Living | Campus Safety | February 29, 2012

School Shootings: Otterbein Trains Students to Respond to Campus Shooters

The recent shootings at Chardon High School in Ohio is another reminder of the possibility of violence at any given place and any given time.

That’s why Otterbein University actively trains students, staff and faculty members on what to do in case there is an active shooting on campus. Instead of just hoping it doesn’t happen to you or a loved one, Director of Campus Police at Otterbein Larry Banaszak believes people need to take an active role to ensure they are prepared in the event of a shooting-related crisis.

Lack of Response Training for School Shootings

“More people are killed in schools by gunfire than tornadoes or fires and yet we have regular drills for what to do during both of those and nothing for shootings,” Banaszak said. The problem with most crisis plans is that faculty and staff might be trained to lock the facility down, but students are often left with little instruction on what they should do when facing a school shooting.

“They cover a lockdown, which is fine, but they don’t cover what to do when a shooter enters a room and starts killing kids and teachers,” Banaszak said. “A lockdown is very good given certain situations. But what they need to add is what to do when students and teachers encounter a shooter face to face.”

Tactical Training for School Shootings at Otterbein

Otterbein hosts regular training sessions for students, faculty and staff on how to respond to a shooter. Having that repeated exposure on what to do in an emergency can help innocent bystanders react, instead of panic. In order to save yourself and others from becoming potential victims, you should run, hide, barricade and fight as a last resort.

Banaszak’s training implements both an information presentation, followed by practical simulations in which members of the classroom can react to hearing shots fired in the hallway to barricade the door, dial 9-1-1, actively seek an escape route as well as arm themselves with any objects that could be used as defensive weapons.

If given no warning before a shooter enters the room, the first person that sees the shooter should yell “gun” at the top of their lungs. Everyone else should then pick up any objects available and begin throwing them at the shooter’s head to prevent him/her from taking aim. Students should follow the “Throw and Go” technique, where as they’re throwing objects, they are also rushing the shooter. The first to get to the shooter should try to control the weapon as others following should tackle the shooter and lay on top of him/her until the police arrive.

“Two or three people on each arm, each leg and on the body’s core will subdue that person. They can also put a belt on the throat to take their air away and cover their eyes so they can’t see. That individual is no longer a threat,” Banaszak said. “We understand that some people may get shot or killed, but the greater good is to secure this individual so he can’t kill everybody. The last thing we want is them lying down in the fetal position, not doing anything and getting executed.”

Understanding the Psychology Behind School Shootings

Banaszak is a retired member of the Ohio State Highway Patrol where he specialized in officer survival and safety. Following the shootings at Virginia Tech in 2007, he began pooling additional resources to try to make Otterbein as safe of a campus as possible. In his research, Banaszak said a common theme in school shooters is intentionally seeking as many victims as possible and that while cowering might be a natural reaction to fear, fighting back will significantly improve chances of survival.

“Shooters seem to be interested in their body count, so the more people they’ve killed the more headlines they’re going to get and that seems to be a pattern,” Banaszak said. “If the shooter gains access to a room, chances are people in there are not going to be fine. They’re looking for innocent targets of opportunity.”

The same philosophy is something that everyone can benefit from hearing and not just limited to school shootings, as violence has been well-documented in restaurants, churches, malls, courtrooms and countless other locations. The run, hide, barricade and fight hierarchy can be implemented wherever necessary to limit the impact shooters have on a target. When time to develop a plan is not a luxury victims have, repeated training sessions help make these acts second nature.

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