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Community Safety
Education news and issues in the Ozarks.

Drury Embraces New Active Intruder Program

Officer Eric Schroeder giving his presentation at Drury Thursday/Credit: Scott Harvey

In an active shooter situation, one person is killed an estimated every 15 seconds. And data shows that during a lockdown, instructing students to get under their desks or huddle toward the back of the classroom isn’t the safest way. On Thursday, students at Drury University in Springfield were introduced to the “Run, Hide, and Fight” strategy. KSMU’s Scott Harvey was there.

[Sound: Air horn]

Those are simulated gun shots.

[Sound: Mock intruder enters classroom]

And that’s the sound of a mock intruder entering a classroom inside Lay Hall, where he’s pelted with objects ranging from water bottles to backpacks. It’s what Officer Eric Schroeder calls a tactical advantage, surprising the gunman by putting him in a defensive position so that you can improve your odds of escaping and surviving.

[Video: Helmet cam of mock intruder Mark Geiss, armed with a Nerf gun, entering one room and attempting to enter a barricaded room.]

Schroeder, a Springfield Police Officer, is stationed at Drury’s Police Substation. Just one year ago he was instructing students to hide under desks if an armed intruder were to enter a campus building.  Now, he’s teaching the program ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evacuate.

“Tell me what your lockdown drill was? What was some of the things you did in your lockdown drills in high schools,” Schroeder asks the class. “Lock the door, get in the corner, turn off lights, turn off cell phones.”

In order to get his point across, Officer Schroeder is asking students to unlearn how they’ve been previously taught to handle these situations; methods he says failed to prevent the loss of life at schools shootings in our country.

“So what happens if an intruder would have gotten into your locked door, dimly lit, quiet classroom full of students? Virginia Tech. We trained every student at Virginia Tech what you just described. Even what you went through after Virginia Tech. That’s why we’re trying to change what you’ve learned, away from that,” Schroeder says.

Instead, Schroeder says that at the first sound of gunshots, run if possible. He says treat an active shooter situation like a bomb is about to go off, but you don’t how big the blast could be. And when you run, don’t run in a straight line. But if you must hide, hide and barricade. Use anything you can to prevent an intruder from entering your classroom.

The new strategy comes as welcome advice for students like Johnnie Carl, a sophomore at Drury.

“Not knowing what to do is the scariest thing. So being able to say, ‘OK, I know that we should do this and I know that I need to be prepared, I need to have something that I can throw,’ it provides a level of safety much greater than just panicked hiding in a corner,” Carl said.

Officer Schroeder referred to the “mother hen” method, where students are huddled together and an instructor essentially prepares to put themselves between the students and the intruder.

Dr. Laurie Edmondson is the interim director of Drury’s School of Education & Child Development, and says it’s nice to know there’s a better option, and that her students feel the same way.

“I think they were nervous at first but I think now they do feel empowered. They know it’s a very simple process. They know exactly how to assess the situation; know if they have time to run or if they need to fight and barricade or if the need to hide. They’ve got it,” Dr. Edmondson said.

Schroeder says without this new training, students will revert to the previous training they’ve had. He adds that state of Ohio has fully implemented the ALICE program, and hopes that other schools will embrace the training soon, calling on students and instructors to become advocates for the program. Learn more about the program here.

Thursday's mock intruder session was part of a campus-wide event, where students were alerted via the university's emergency notification system, pr0mpting them to view this message from Officer Schroeder and Drury's Director of Safety and Security Sarene Deeds.