Preparing for the Unknown: Crisis Preparation at Texas Tech
A recent knife attack at Ohio State University served as a reminder that today’s universities have to be prepared for more than just mass shootings when it comes to emergencies.
Amy Ivey, public relations/crime prevention corporal for the Texas Tech Police Department, said that when they train for crisis situations, they cover as much ground as possible.
“Whenever we here at the Texas Tech Police Department prepare for an active shooter, it can be anywhere from weapons—knives, guns, cars—anything in general that you can use to create a mass homicide,” Ivey said. “Whether it’s chemicals, torches, anything like that, we train for all different events that may occur.”
Ivey said the department also works to raise awareness by giving presentations for “active shooter” situations that cover threats such as guns, knives and vehicles. She said one of the most important things students, faculty and staff can do to stay safe is to stay alert.
“Always have a 360-view of what’s going on around you,” Ivey said. “When you see a lot of the students walking around on campus with headphones on their heads, listening to music, they can’t hear anything that’s going around or they can’t hear gunshots or hear people screaming. So we recommend, when we go out and do the training, keep one earbud out, always know what’s going on around you, look for suspicious people. If anything about anybody looks out of place, contact our Texas Tech Police Department.”
Ivey said the university uses a system of text message notifications through Tech Alert when a crisis occurs. She said the notifications are helpful because they give the police department a way to communicate with students, faculty and staff during an active shooter situation.
“If there is an active shooter in a certain building, we will send out a Tech Alert that will let them know if they need to get out, hide out, and of course if they hide out and the shooter comes in, we train them how to take down the shooter,” Ivey said. “That Tech Alert system is going to be our number one communication line to all of the faculty, staff and students, and it will let them know where the shooting is happening, if they need to hunker down in a certain building, lock the doors, or if they need to get out and take cover and run.”
Chris Cook, managing director of the Office of Communications and Marketing at Texas Tech, said that when it comes to detecting a possible threat, it is the job of everyone on campus to stay alert and to report suspicious activity.
“Just be aware of your surroundings,” Cook said. “This is our students, faculty, staff, anyone visiting campus—be aware of your surroundings, and if anything looks out of place, do the safe thing and report it.”
Cook said that while no crisis situation is ever the same, Texas Tech is preparing by taking notes from the crises other universities across the country have faced.
“We’re prepared as best we can be,” Cook said. “So, from a communications standpoint, but more importantly from a tactical standpoint through Tech P.D. They go through regular training, and no situation is likely ever alike. So what happens at Ohio State, what happens at U.C. Santa Barbara, at other colleges around the country, does not mean it’s going to be the same here. But you plan and prepare the best you can.”
The passage of Senate Bill 11 in Texas, which permits concealed carry on public college campuses, brings a new element to hypothetical crisis situations. Ivey said that when Texas Tech’s police officers are called to a scene, they are trained to respond by calling for everyone present to drop their weapons and put their hands in the air.
“We’re going to handle any individual with a gun just like we would before campus carry,” Ivey said. “All we ask is that if somebody is involved in an active shooter situation and they happen to use their concealed handgun on the suspect or on the shooter, we just asked that they holster their weapon and show their open hands and follow our commands once we arrive on scene.”
Ivey said that when it comes to a crisis situation, the Texas Tech Police Department works with other local law enforcement agencies to ensure that all bases are covered. For example, she said that if an active shooter situation occurred, the Lubbock Police Department would help by surrounding all of the exits and entrances to the campus, and calling for SWAT teams to assess the situation.
“We’re well equipped and ready to handle any kind of crisis here on the university,” Ivey said. “And we have good faith in our faculty, staff and students. We go out and give presentations all the time to kind of give them ideas to keep in the back of their mind, and to train them how to handle a real situation.”