CAMPUS SAFETY – Eight days, three schools, four shootings. Valley College is wary but hopefully prepared.
By Kevin Buckles Jr., Sports Editor
In light of the eight campus shootings across the nation since the fall 2015 semester began, Valley College is conducting a campus-wide lockdown drill on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 10 a.m. The drill will last about 15 minutes and all Monarchs present are to participate. The goal is for all students, faculty, and staff to be aware of what to do in the event of an active shooter on campus.
The school’s security protocol in the case of an active shooter has not changed in the wake of the fatal incidents in Oregon, Arizona and Texas, but Valley will do its best to be prepared, according to Deputy Frank Velasco.
“If we are alerted that someone may have a gun [on campus], our responsibility is to immediately assess the situation to determine if we’re going to lock it down,” Velasco said. “If we have sufficient information that the threat is credible, our main responsibility at that point, if there is someone with a gun or if there is an active shooter, is to find that person right away.
“We would talk to witnesses, search the locations, request additional resources, deputies, and maybe a helicopter to ensure we are doing everything to find the person and keep everyone safe.”
The Sheriff’s Station would notify all faculty, staff, and students via Valley’s Blackboard Connect, the emergency notification system that sends alerts by email, voice and text message to all Monarchs within minutes.
Valley’s most recent lockdown was in June 2014 after the school’s main line received a call from a man saying he was armed and on his way to campus. The lockdown initiated at approximately 10 a.m. and lasted most of the day, forcing final exams to be rescheduled. The threat ended up being a hoax, as the suspect who made the call was simply upset over failing a class, according to NBC News.
“I, myself, have a lot of experience in not only lockdowns, but in training for an active shooter,” Velasco said. “They send us regularly almost every month to an actual training to prepare ourselves for a situation as such.
“I was there for the East LA College lockdown, almost two years ago now. We received a threat of a possible student that was suicidal and were told that he had some weapons with him. We ended up finding the guy in Long Beach and that’s where he was detained and arrested. No one was hurt or injured.”
In the event of a false alarm, Velasco stated that the station and campus would remain on alert.
“If we don’t feel like the threat is credible, we will still take precautions and make sure we have the resources and people here needed,” said the deputy. “There have been instances where somebody has reported that they’ve thought they’ve seen someone else on campus with a gun, but it ended up [not being a weapon]. We may not go on lockdown in that situation, but just standby just in case. Every situation is different.”
The emergency response plan is available in classrooms, other campus buildings and online at http://www.lavc.edu/erp/index.aspx. It details what Monarchs are to do in the event of emergencies, including involving an active shooter. In that case, the plan advises Monarchs to immediately call the Sheriff’s Office if shots are heard, move away from the noise and under no circumstances approach the shooter. It then advises to find a safe place to hide, ideally in a locked classroom with the door blockaded. If the shooter were to approach someone, Monarchs are told to comply with the shooter’s demands and to fight only as a final resort.
The recent campus shootings, including those in Oregon, Arizona and Texas over an eight-day span, have left an impression on Velasco despite there not being any changes in how the station will operate.
“It’s terrible,” said Velasco. “Because of these incidents, we need to make sure we get the message out that people need to be aware of what to do in these situations. The worst thing [people] can do is not do anything. If there is an emergency on campus, they need to first alert us and do something to keep themselves safe.”
For more information, visit the Valley College Sheriff’s Station website at http://www.lavc.edu/sheriff/ or call at (818), 947-2911.