To prepare students and employees for an active shooter, Valley College hosted a training session to teach them the essentials.
By Gabriel Arizon, Editor-in-Chief
The Los Angeles Community College District and a Los Angeles Sheriff held an hour-long meeting at Valley College in order to educate faculty and students on what to do if an active shooter appeared on campus.
On Feb. 27, LACCD Safety and Emergency Services Manager William Ramirez held a training session in the Administrative and Career Advancement building to inform attendees what the district was doing to prepare in case of a shooter. Sergeant Ramon Castillo made it clear from the onset how serious he was about the subject.
“I’m not here today to sugarcoat anything,” Castillo said. “I’m not here to tell you, ‘ah it will probably never happen, so we don’t have to worry that much, we don’t have to prepare.’ We cannot predict when the next active shooter will take place.”
Castillo said that shooters tend to go after “soft targets” — locations that are densely populated, have easy access and have limited security presence, all of which describe a school. He added that California has the highest number of mass shootings in the country. According to a May 2019 report by Reuters, California has had over 158 school shootings since 1970, more than Texas’ 133 shootings and Florida’s 90.
In his presentation, Castillo reviewed three keys to survival: run, hide and (as a last resort) fight. Students and faculty are advised to run from the scene as far and as fast as possible if they are able to get away. If not, they should lock themselves in classrooms, barricade the doors, stay out of sight and eliminate any noise that could alert the shooter. In the event that the attacker is up close, Castillo advised using any object as a weapon to fend off the attacker.
It was also explained in Castillo’s presentation that law enforcement is there to take down the attacker first, not to give aid to victims. They will be in a heightened state of awareness and be on the lookout for signs of aggression. Only when the area is deemed safe, will officers attend to victims.
Ramirez advised attendees to call the campus sheriff, not 911, in the event of an attack because the sheriff knows the campus layout and will know how to respond to school situations.
“LAPD is not familiar with our school at all,” Ramirez said. “There’s going to be a delay between you calling LAPD and then LAPD calling our sheriffs, and that will be several minutes.”
Additionally, Ramirez introduced LAVC SAFE, a new district app for students and employees. The app details emergency procedures for varying situations like fires and bomb threats, the campus and evacuation map, the sheriff’s number to request an escort and a button that will autodial 2911 — the emergency number for the sheriff — among other functions. The app is free to download from both the Apple and Google Play Store.
Last year, LACCD began a project to install new classroom locks that could lock rooms from the inside, according to Ramirez. However, due to some issues with the manufacturer, Valley is the only college in the district to not have the new locks. They are set to be installed in two phases sometime in March.
Although there was plenty of information at the session, there were some areas that caused a bit of concern. As Castillo stated, drywall does not stop bullets, especially from a high-powered rifle, and a shooter could fire away at a door handle to get inside. Another issue was raised by an employee, who asked what was the point of barricading a door if it opens outward, which most (if not all) of Valley’s doors are designed to do. Castillo’s advice was to “do the best you can.”
Israel Ortiz, the library’s online technical support assistant, said that — while the training covers the basics students and employees need to know — the session was a bit too general and it could have added a bit more information specific to Valley.
“For example, right next to my office, we have the computer commons,” Ortiz explained. “The problem is that it’s missing walls, so if a large group of students … are in this room and an active shooter comes into the library, it’s very difficult for them to be protected or to hide.”
Ortiz is one of the library’s building marshalls, a volunteer position for employees that are responsible for the emergency procedures during drills and real-life events for a specific building, and he has received similar training.
“The number one advice I would give is to attend these trainings,” said Ortiz. “Every faculty member, every staff member, any opportunity that they have to attend one of our trainings, they should do it. It’s always a good idea to attend these and either refresh or learn something new.”
For more information, visit the Emergency Response Plan on the school website or lasd.org. The next training session will take place at Pierce College on March 19.