School Shootings and Student Safety: Westminster prepares for emergency

A Westminster Campus Patrol security car parked outside the Meldrum Science Center at Westminster. In light of recent school shootings on college campuses, Westminster is finalizing an Emergency Operations Plan for the college. Photo by Jessika Huhnke

A Westminster Campus Patrol security car parked outside the Meldrum Science Center at Westminster. In light of recent school shootings on college campuses, Westminster is finalizing an Emergency Operations Plan for the college. Photo by Jessika Huhnke

The 45th school shooting in the United States during 2015 took place on Oct. 1 in Roseburg, Oregon. Steve Morgan, president of Westminster, reached out to the Westminster student body in response to the recent school shooting.

“I feel a great deal of responsibility to make sure something like this never happens at Westminster College,” said Morgan in an email sent out to the student body. “I will be convening a meeting of our emergency response team this month to review our emergency response plan to make sure we are ready to respond in the event of an emergency.”

Some students said they feel safe on campus but not because they have the knowledge of what to do in case of a shooting.

“Yes I do [feel safe], but I think that's mostly because I don't think about the possibilities of a shooting very often,” said Carissa Christensen, sophomore sociology major. “I think I have a false sense of security in the world, but I think that's pretty common for everyone. We don't want to think about something bad happening to us that is out of our control.”

Utah requires citizens to acquire a permit to carry concealed firearms, according to Utah State Law Summary. However, Westminster is among a few colleges in the state that does not allow concealed firearms and other weapons such as knives and switchblades on campus, according to the annual security report. One exception to this rule is if the weapons have been registered with and authorized by the director of campus patrol.

Run-Hide-Fight is a methodology that was proposed by homeland security and the FBI. Westminster advocates the use of the Run-Hide-Fight method in case of an active-shooter situation on campus. Infographic by Jessika Huhnke

Run-Hide-Fight is a methodology that was proposed by homeland security and the FBI. Westminster advocates the use of the Run-Hide-Fight method in case of an active-shooter situation on campus. Infographic by Jessika Huhnke

“I plan to have my conceal to carry when I am 21 just because I'd rather have one than not have one,” Christensen said. “I think it's silly that the campus can have different laws than the city though, so weapons aren't allowed. I also don't think that is well defined. Is pepper spray not a weapon? Because I have it on my keychain at all times. What about knives? I just feel like it's a very blurred line.”

Some students say they don’t have any training on what to do in the case of a school shooting.

“I'd use my best judgement in that incident, but I have had no training,” Christensen said.

“There is an incredible video we have on our website, and it comes from homeland security and the FBI,” said Blake Smith, director of campus patrol. “It’s called Run-Hide-Fight. This is our methodology at Westminster College. We follow the Run-Hide-Fight method.”

Both Smith and President Morgan encourage students to watch the Run-Hide-Fight video, which was created by Ready Houston, and is the FBI’s advice on what individuals can do in an active-shooter situation.

“We have goals to move forward to have trainings in a lot of different issues, we are just not there yet,” Smith said. “It’s probably safe to say something will be in place in 2016. I think we all need to be more involved with how we protect one another.”

Westminster is working on finalizing what is called the Emergency Operations Plan for the college. It is a document that has procedures, trainings and policies regarding many types of emergencies, which will be signed by President Morgan.


“I promise to use my office as president to advocate for safer campuses and school grounds,” said Morgan in an email to the students of Westminster. “We must do more to make sure our schools are safe places for learning.”