SLED trains FMU community on shootings

FMU hosted the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) on Sept. 19 from 3:45-5 p.m. in the Chapman Auditorium to prepare students and faculty for potential active shooters on campus.

The presentation, “Active Shooters in Today’s World,” was a partnership between SC Citizens, FEMA, first responder agencies and SLED to discuss some procedures for handling active shooters on campus and the kind of safety measures that can be implemented to help FMU resolve critical incidents when they occur.

FMU Chief of Police Donald Tarbell briefed the audience on the topic and the work SLED has done to confront the rise in active shooter incidents.

Senior Agent Wayne Freeman, who is the active shooter coordinator for SC, began the presentation by saying that empowerment through education helps to remove fear and faulty thinking, enabling you to respond in critical moments.

“The power of education removes the fear from the topic,” Freeman said. “What you’re looking for is what you can do during bad stuff; it’s not statistics and figures – sometimes they can lend themselves to the education piece, but in this case, it’s more about what can I do in my classes with my students.”

To contextualize active shooter situations in SC, Freeman said that the state is not any less of a target than any other. According to Freeman, part of addressing the issue means recognizing that what the media popularizes does not represent the particular realities of all active shooter incidents; causing people to rely on stereotypes that lead to cognitive dissonance and normalcy bias, or to think that these incidents cannot happen here.

“I need you to break down that mindset; it’s not proper programming,” Freeman said. “In South Carolina, that profile doesn’t exist. We have seen it all. When you see violence, I need you to respond to it.”

According to Freeman, another habit people need to change is referring to the events with the name of the shooter. Instead, he said it’s common practice for them to use the victims’ names out of respect for them. Using the shooter’s name also gives them the clout they originally wanted, according to Freeman.

Freeman also said the statistics show that the number of active shooters is increasing, and SC is even home to some statistical anomalies, according to Freeman.

According to Freeman, schools and universities often have unique circumstances that affect their response framework. He said “avoid, deny, defend” is generally the best approach: avoid the shooter by removing yourself, deny access to yourself by finding a secure location and be prepared to defend yourself if you have to. However, for students and faculty with disabilities, it is important to incorporate a method of securing them in critical incidents in advance. He also said ensuring that the entire FMU community has opportunities for training is the best way to prepare.

“There’s no survival value in panic,” Freeman said.

Freeman said FMU has already incorporated a great deal into their emergency response framework and that SLED’s mission is shared by FMU.

Lieutenant Moore of campus police said FMU regularly offers training services for faculty and staff and educational opportunities for students in their university life classes. He also said SLED has been invited to speak several times before and the administration will continue to do so as a part of their mission.