Recent college shootings encourage a look at security on local campuses

Local colleges have emergency alert systems

With the continued shootings on college campuses, Wisconsin’s public university and technical college systems said each has emergency plans that include how to respond to a campus shooting.

The toughest part about training for an active shooter situation or a different emergency is students, faculty and staff never know when it’s going to happen, and they have to be prepared for anything. Two local colleges in the area have multiple different safety measures all at play at one time.

For Detective Chris Schuster, with UW-La Crosse Police, the words active shooter never seems too far away.

“A campus shooting is one thing that is always playing in the back of my head,” said Schuster.

He was even prepared before the most recent campus shooting in Oregon, which killed nine people and injured nine more.

“The college community is a close knit community, and even as far away as Oregon is, we can’t help but feel the tragic impact of those events,” said Raj Ramnarace, security manager at Western Technical College.

“It would be a terrible thing to have to deal with here on the campus, but we try to be as prepared as we can,” said Schuster.

That is why Schuster and Ramnarace are constantly updating emergency plans and going through the “What if” scenarios.

“Whether we are conducting training for an active shooter at Murphy Library or it’s an officer on duty going through Wimberley, we are always trying to walk through the buildings on campus to remind us that if something would happen, how am I going to approach it and what is the best way to get the students and faculty to safety,” said Schuster.

“The procedures we have in place, the team we have in place is doing the utmost to mitigate or reduce the likeliness of anything serious happening here,” said Ramnarace.

At UW-La Crosse, students and staff have access to blue lights.

“If there is an emergency, they can press the button on the blue light boxes, and it opens a line between the person who pushed the button and the dispatcher,” said Schuster.

At Western Technical College, emergency procedure guides are located throughout the buildings.

“Our staff and students have access to really the smartest things you can do in a hurry if there is a crisis,” said Ramnarace.

Schuster and Ramnarace said if there is anything positive to come out of the tragedy in Oregon, it’s awareness.

“We are all in this together,” said Ramnarace.

They both said awareness could save lives.

“When faced with a novel crisis, many people are prone to freeze or panic. Roughly 15 percent of population actually responds in some way that is helpful to the situation,” said Ramnarace. “The big difference maker there is that someone has thought out, prepared and planned it.”

“It only takes that one person to really change the dynamic of your day, so we try to give people some tools to get their brains thinking about what they can do,” said Schuster.

Schuster said the recent shootings have also sparked more phone calls to the UW-La Crosse Police Department from staff members making sure they are prepared to handle an active shooter situation.

He said sometimes, students are more prepared than the educators, because many of them have been practicing active shooter scenarios since high school.

Both UW-La Crosse and Western Technical College have alert systems set up that sends messages directly to students and staff in emergency situations.