By Olivia Miller
The start to my four-day Labor Day weekend was an early and frightening one. At 4:21 a.m. Friday the K-State Alerts system sent out a message that a possible armed suspect was last seen on the south side of campus. Throughout the early morning students, faculty, staff and parents received these messages and after two hours our campus was officially put under a campus lockdown. Thankfully, I was home in Olathe Friday morning,but still anxious and worried. I was calm until the words “campus lockdown” came through, as that is when my mind started thinking the worst, and how would I react to a more serious situation?
When the words “campus lockdown” came through my phone I immediately began thinking about campus shootings, even though the situation was not that of a campus shooting. Despite this I could not stop thinking about the Columbine shooting, practicing code red alerts in my elementary school, watching the reports of the Virginia Tech shooting, and packing up for Winter Break while watching news coverage of Sandy Hook Elementary School. Just last week Cassidy wrote about how her institution was directly affected by a shooting. So no, Kansas State was not under a campus lockdown for a shooting, but an armed suspect was in the vicinity and our campus safety was threatened.
Just two days before this lockdown I was tagging along on a campus walking tour, and both campus safety and the safety of Manhattan was mentioned by the tour guide. Of course, you never think that something bad could happen to your campus – which is why safety procedures are put in place and acted upon when needed. The communication from our University President and from Housing and Dining Services were orderly and consistent via various outlets throughout the morning until the all clear was given shortly before 9:30 a.m. I was proud and impressed with how the situation was handled at all levels, but hope that I never have to experience something like this again.
This brings me to the importance of emergency response and management, and how we as student affairs professionals should be trained throughout the academic year so that we are not caught off guard during an emergency. Last semester in our Principles of College Student Personnel Services course, one class was dedicated to emergency response and management, and I quickly found myself concerned with the lack of ongoing training or awareness. While our class session that day was informative both in resources and a visit from a representative from the Office of Student Life, I still felt unprepared. Yet, is one ever truly prepared for the worst? In any emergency I would argue no, and we simply have to have a clear and level head and demonstrate the leadership necessary for the safety of our school. And, from what I saw in the safety of my home Friday morning, K-State leadership did just that during those frightening five hours. I hope that anyone who reads this will not have to experience an emergency situation such as this, but I do hope that it has gotten readers thinking about their role and their campus procedures if it were necessary.