by Ally Hutzler
On Wednesday, Nov. 15, students and faculty filed into the Kelly Commons to hear a presentation by the NYPD Counter Terrorism Unit on the potential presence of an active shooter.
In 2008, after the tragic Virginia Tech shooting that left 32 people dead, Congress amended the Clery Act adding that a campus emergency response plan be required by every institution of higher education. The amendment requires institutions to immediately notify the campus community as soon as an emergency is confirmed on the campus.
Shootings on college campuses over the last five years have more than doubled since a similar period a decade earlier, according to a 2016 report by the Citizens Crime Commission. The report, which reviewed 190 incidents at 142 colleges from 2001 to 2016, also stated that the incidents have grown more deadly, with three times as many people injured or killed during the most-recent five year period.
David Kalin, a lieutenant who is currently assigned to the NYPD’s school safety division, lead the presentation and began the talk with a simple question: “Do we have a plan in place and do we practice it?”
Kalin began with an overview of some of the deadliest school shootings in American history, beginning with the first reported mass school killing that occurred in 1764 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania where during the Pontiac’s War Native Americans entered a schoolhouse and killed ten children. Kalin went on to discuss the events of Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook.
In each situation, Kalin dissected the events that took place and pointed to actions that could have been different or safer if the school had planned and practiced an emergency response protocol. In Sandy Hook, for example, the lock is on the outside of the classroom doors and many teachers didn’t have time to lock the classroom properly. In Virginia Tech, it took police a long time to get into the building because the two attackers chained the doors shut which delayed entry.
As the presentation noted, active shooters aren’t isolated to a single type of person or type of place. They can be any gender, race or religion and can take place at schools, shopping malls, movie theaters, churches, or places of business. This is what makes mass shootings so frightening and so difficult to prepare for.
Kalin’s overall advice: be prepared for anything.
Barrett Cortellesi, a student at Manhattan, attended the presentation because of his family’s history with emergency response.
“My dad used to handle the emergency planning for a pre-K through 8 school in New Jersey. I come from a family of firefighters and EMTs so this is just kind of what we do,” he said.
Cortellesi thought the presentation was very informative, but possibly a little but outdated. He notes the challenges that may occur in keeping these guidelines updated each year.
Cullen McElligott and Mikayla Cunney, two freshmen at MC who attended the presentation, said that they feel relatively safe at the college. Cunney did note that being close to New York City and taking the subways can be scary at times, but she finds the Riverdale area to feel more secure.
“[The presentation] gave some helpful tips that I didn’t know before like what to do during a shooting and what happens leading up to it and some of the procedures, so I thought it was pretty helpful,” McElligott said.