Responding to the Nov. 28 Ohio State University assault that led to 11 injuries, the University of North Carolina is encouraging security officials at its 16 institutions to teach students self-defense tactics that could be used in the case of similar attacks.
Brent Herron, UNC’s associate vice president for campus safety and emergency operations, headed a security discussion last week with all UNC campus police departments following the OSU incident. He spoke with Carolina Journal following a Dec. 2 meeting of the UNC Board of Governors.
Herron said campuses are prepped and ready to defend against assailants, but that students need to learn more about dealing with situations when there is no option but to face an attacker. Additional funding also is needed for training exercises and security improvements — such as updated building locks and classroom intercom systems, he added.
CJ asked Herron about security protocols following statements that were made at a Nov. 29 meeting of the General Assembly’s Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee.
During that meeting, Sen. Ronald Rabin, R-Harnett, raised concerns about whether UNC had measures in place to teach students how to handle shootings, stabbings, or similar situations.
Rabin told CJ on Monday he was unable to reach officials at UNC General Administration prior to the legislature’s committee hearing, and information about the university’s security and training programs was not made available to him before that meeting.
UNC’s current emergency training curriculum, which typically is administered to students during freshman orientation classes, includes a course on how to react in the case of campus violence, and uses the same “Run, Hide, Fight” active shooter training that is taught at OSU, Herron said.
The first order of security in the case of an attack is always evacuation, but there is need to teach students more about the “fight” aspect of self-defense, he continued.
“If the assailant does come into the room that you’re in, before that even happens, you as a group need to talk about, ‘if this person comes in here, we’re going to have to fight.’ And what does that mean? That means throwing books at the person, chairs at the person, people actually going and trying to physically bring the person down,” Herron said.
All UNC campuses recently were encouraged to increase use of ALICE, a scenario-driven program with simulations that teach students how to disable an attacker physically.
ALICE, which stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate, is being taught at UNC-Asheville, but every school in the UNC system could benefit from making the program a standard part of emergency training, Herron said.
“What we try to tell students is, ‘Look, this is a life-and-death situation,’” he continued. “So we don’t want everyone to feel like lambs if they face something like this.”
Incidents like the one at Ohio State don’t necessarily signal a higher risk of attack for UNC, but additional funding is needed to keep up with proper building security and officer training, Herron said.
“Campuses are open environments. We can’t really control who comes on our campuses,” he said. “So we really try to educate people. We conduct training exercises all the time, [and] it could cost as much as $20,000 to $30,000 for an exercise, quite frankly.”
Rabin, who last week urged fellow committee members to support pre-emptive safety measures, told CJ that university representatives should attend future meetings and give more specific recommendations.
“We can’t just go out and say, ‘Yes, we need funding,’” Rabin said. “I don’t know if we need funding or not. What I know is there may be a need, and once we can establish the need, then we can go and look in conjunction with [UNC] and say, ‘OK, what do you think it will cost?’ and then see what we can do.”
The purpose of the emergency management committee is to “get things out on the table,” Rabin added.
“To me, it’s a priority issue that we will work on. It’s a case of getting [UNC] to bring the materials to us,” he said. “I think it’s important that we learn how to better manage, and mitigate, and preempt these attacks if we can. If you can pre-empt, you don’t have to deal with very sad situations,” he said.