As the first frantic reports from Virginia Tech emerged through news media nearly a decade ago, the unfolding violence witnessed on that seemingly faraway campus appeared both tragic and unthinkable. But now, as we have all watched similar crises play out across our nation and around the globe, we at Washington State University, have long-since accepted the harsh reality that the potential for gun violence on our campuses was probably never nearly as distant nor as unthinkable as we might once have imagined.

Today, we must prepare for what once seemed unthinkable as though it were inevitable. Much of that planning focus has centered on broadly communicating the presence of any possible threat to all WSU students, faculty and staff, as well as the wider WSU community. To that end, we have developed a small team of trained emergency managers, who work in close coordination with campus law enforcement to maintain and operate WSU Alert, a state-of-the art emergency communications system capable of delivering automated threat alerts to all WSU students and personnel across all WSU campuses and research facilities. The system, which can be quickly triggered as needed, is capable of providing detailed alert messaging to all registered users through a variety of mechanisms and technologies, including siren/loudspeakers, desk and cell phones, e-mails and text messages.

Most recently, WSU has moved to enhance this alert system to provide notifications through social media and a WSU-specific phone app, as well as to extend our abilities to communicate with VOIP phones and desktop computers.

For many years, WSU has maintained a highly trained force of uniformed police officers dedicated to preserving the safety of our campuses. WSU officers are involved in several shooter training exercises a year, including multiagency training, which is particularly helpful in Pullman. Our officers have received training directly from the FBI.

In turn, they have been conducting active shooter training with faculty, staff and students for the past seven years. Most of that training occurs in small groups, but some very large groups have participated as well.

The training focuses on the nationally recognized “run, hide, fight” model, which urges people to try to assess a situation before acting and make as informed a decision as possible about taking action. It outlines what people should do after they receive an alert, preparing them to make good decisions and helping them to recognize they may need to act to protect themselves as opposed to waiting to be rescued. Materials providing information about the proper response to an active shooter situation can be found at http://police.wsu.edu/activeshooter.html.

WSU police officers also conduct assessments of workspaces on request to review security issues and recommend changes where possible.

While our preparations and training have been thorough, additional work is necessary.  To that end, I have asked our security team to develop and disseminate an active shooter training module to everyone in our university community.  It is our intent that every member of our faculty, staff, and student body receive active shooter training.  You will be hearing more about this in the weeks to come.

The recent spree of campus violence in Oregon, Arizona and elsewhere as well as the shootings in Paris and in San Bernardino is a vivid reminder that every community must be vigilant in recognizing and preparing for the worst. At WSU, we take that responsibility seriously.