How to be prepared for emergencies on campus

By Samantha Whittle

Moving away from home and living on a college campus can be one of the most exciting but terrifying events for parents and students. If something like an active shooter happens on the campus, the parents’ and student’s worst nightmare can turn into a reality.

Recently, two Mississippi universities have been affected by this scenario.

At Mississippi State University in Starkville, a possible active shooter shocked the campus on Aug. 27 around 10 a.m. According to WMC Action News 5, the chaos began when a freshman computer science major, Phu-Qui “Bill” Nguyen from Madison called an agency in Jackson saying he was suicidal and considered harming himself and others.

The agency immediately alerted the university which went into lockdown mode. Students who were outside were told to run back inside, as police searched for Nguyen near Lee Hall, where he was reportedly seen.

Minutes after the lockdown began, police took Nguyen into custody at McCool Hall.  Nguyen did not have any weapons on him when police took him into custody. MSU gave its students the “all clear” just before 11 a.m. and the campus resumed classes at 2 p.m.

Although there were many rumors circulating social media, no shots were fired and there were no injuries during this emergency.

Nguyen faced disorderly conduct charges and officials have referred him to a medical facility for a routine mental and psychological evaluation after the threats. According to WMC Action News 5, investigators arrested Nguyen but could not charge him due to no evidence that he was a threat or that he put anyone at risk. Nguyen’s lawyer has stated that MSU has decided to allow him to re-enroll for the 2016 spring semester.

At Delta State University in Cleveland on Sept. 14, a social science and geography instructor, Shannon Lamb, 45, fatally shot Ethan Schmidt, an assistant professor of American history and a colleague of Lamb’s.

According to Newsweek, it is said that Lamb fatally shot Amy Prentiss, 41, at their shared home in Gautier. According to Anna Wolfe and Jerry Mitchell of The Clarion- Ledger, Lamb told his mother that killing Prentiss was an accident. Lamb states that he was trying to kill himself, but Prentiss intervened. Then Lamb drove 300 miles to Delta State to murder Schmidt.

Lamb, a father and instructor at Delta State since 2009, was only teaching online courses around the days of the shooting due to medical leave from a possible spider bite.

After the shooting at Delta State, Lamb got in his car and traveled to Greenville. Police in Greenville began following Lamb until he got out of his car and ran into a wooded area. Police say that they heard a single gunshot.

According to Newsweek, “The University canceled events commemorating its 90th anniversary and instead planned a candlelight vigil on Tuesday to honor Schmidt, 39, a married father of three children who joined the faculty in 2013. LaForge [President of Delta State University] praised him as a ‘star’ professor.”

According to CNN, the 911 call where Lamb states that he killed his “wife” and told police to go to the home in Gautier, did not hint at any reasons of why Lamb shot Prentiss and Schmidt. Lamb also left an apology note at the house in Gautier saying that he wishes he could take back killing Prentiss.

The university was under an overnight lockdown that was lifted on Sept. 15. A candlelight vigil was also held on Sept. 15 in memory of Schmidt, and counselors were available to students and faculty on Sept. 16.

When asking two current Delta State students about what happened and how they felt, both had reasons why they would not comment. One student stated that she did not feel comfortable talking about the situation so soon after it happened. The other student is in a sorority and she was told not to talk about the situation. Even though there are many students who are still in the grieving process, the candlelight vigil and getting back into the routine of school can help.

With this campus shooting along with others at universities in California, Texas and Oregon, students and faculty all over the country should recognize that they should be more prepared in case of emergencies.

“We are keeping our officers trained,” Zabe Davis, Northwest chief of Police, said. “We are informing our faculty of what to do in case of a crisis by handing out the updated Emergency Response Plan packet and being strict about what happens on campus. We are strict because we are serious about keeping everyone safe.”

Campus Police at Northwest have begun new techniques this semester to improve safety for the students, faculty and staff. Campus Police are keeping a watchful eye of anything suspicious on campus and have decided to make sure everyone on campus knows what to do in any emergencies. A lockdown drill was conducted to assure students and faculty of the correct procedures in case of an emergency.

During a lockdown drill, a Ranger Alert text message will be sent to all faculty, staff and students who have opted in to the alert messaging system on their cell phones. The door should already be locked if class has begun, but the instructor should go and make sure while turning off the lights. The instructor should then urge the students to quietly move into the corner of the room adjacent to the door. The idea for this is so that the possible intruder will not see any shadows and would not be tempted to break into the room.

Campus Police, assisted by county and city police, will sweep the campus, checking every building and room. After they sweep the campus and assure that it is safe for everyone to resume the day, an alert message saying that all is clear will be sent.

Everyone should take the drills seriously, so that everyone will know what to do in case of an emergency. To most, it seems like an emergency such as an active shooter would never happen at their school. It is rare, but with events like this happening at two well-known universities, everyone should be prepared for the worst.

Some students think that Northwest is not doing enough for the safety of their students.

“I think that Northwest is seldom prepared, because I think our security is lacking,” Jonathon McDonald, a sophomore studying criminal justice from Calhoun City, said. “I say seldom, because I think that Northwest should boost up security more.”

To subscribe to alert messages concerning school closings and safety, text RangerAlert to 955-77. For severe weather alerts, text RangerWeather and for campus news and events, text RangerInfo.

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