Active Shooter Drills Prepare College Employees for Worst-Case Scenario

To help faculty and staff train for the potential experience of a gunman on campus, JJC held two active shooter drills on Wednesday, Jan. 9 as part of the college’s Professional and Personal Development week prior to the start of classes.Active Shooter Drills Prepare College Employees for Worst-Case Scenario
More than 150 participants took part in the two drills: faculty, staff, and a few students from JJC, as well as employees from Prairie State College, Governors State University, South Suburban College, DeVry, Chamberlin College of Nursing, Kankakee Community College and Hickory Creek Middle School –Frankfort.
The drills, which the college has held since 2008, are designed to not only train faculty and staff to think and react quickly in a potentially deadly situation, but also are critical in helping JJC police practice their procedures for responding to such a call.
Before the drill took place, participants first watched an introductory video called “When Lightning Strikes,” which went through an active shooter scenario in the workplace and how to evaluate the options available to anyone caught in the situation.
“There is no one right answer, as each situation is going to be unique,” said Chief of Police Pete Comanda. “Sometimes the right thing will be to run outside if an exit is readily available. Sometimes the best thing will be to lock and barricade the door and shut the lights off. Sometimes people may have no other choice but to attempt to distract and disrupt the plans of the shooter. It’s about staying calm, assessing the options available and making the best call possible.”
In each drill, participants were assigned to a room and asked to interact normally as they would during a regular day of classes and work. Nobody knew what scenario would play out or what the assailant might look like.
It turned out that in this scenario, there were two: one female “student” who was angry about getting kicked out of the nursing program, and her “sister” who was waiting quietly in a crowded classroom to carry out her part of the planned attacks.
“I was in the hallway when I heard shooting. I couldn’t tell where it was coming from so rather than meet the shooter while trying to escape, I ducked into a classroom to hide,” said Kristin Ciesemier, coordinator of curriculum and academic effectiveness at JJC. “Surprise, surprise—there was a second shooter in the classroom who began to fire! I grabbed the shooter but wasn’t able to subdue her and was ‘shot’.”
While the first sister, played by JJC Police Officer Jackie Healy, began the attack by shooting a professor who she felt was responsible for her situation, the other sister, played by Campus Safety Officer Amanda Anderson, waited in a classroom until others had locked and barricaded the door shut – thinking they were shutting the danger out— and then began shooting.
Despite the fact that it was a drill, the realistic nature of the situation began to set in for some participants.
“Being part of the active drill was scary for me,” said JJC Recruitment Specialist Rosa Salazar. “The shooter was in the room with us, and she seemed like a typical classmate. So I never realized that she would all of a sudden pull out a gun and start shooting. When I heard the first gun shot, I simply froze. My other classmates were able distract her and tackle her to the ground and take her gun away from her. It took me awhile to react and realize what was happening.”
Salazar also said that she thought that going through the drill was an invaluable experience.
“You never know if that situation will ever take place at JJC, but it’s always good to be prepared. I honestly feel safer coming into work every day, knowing that our JJC PD is prepared and equipped for emergencies if any arise.”
After each drill was complete, Comanda led the participants and the players in a review of the events that transpired and a discussion of what choices were made by participants.
“This was by far the most successful drill we have conducted,” he said. “Not only in terms of the number of students and staff in attendance, but also in regards to the manner in which people responded to the challenges presented to them by the scenario. Though there were different opinions as to what the proper response to events should be, the important thing was that participants acted in unison as groups to determine the appropriate responses and they were not afraid to take action.”
Comanda noted that in both drills, actions taken by the participants were critical in disrupting the plans of the “offenders.” Their actions allowed the responding officers to get to the scene and take decisive action to eliminate the threats.
He also said that while the odds are still infinitesimal that any one individual will be caught in an active shooter situation, preparedness is critical for not only his police force but for the staff and faculty who might be caught in such a situation before the police arrive.

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