UNF, UF react to Florida State campus shooting

UNF practices drills for emergencies several times a year

JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Officials at Florida's other public universities have expressed sympathy and outrage about the early morning shooting on FSU's campus.

"We are truly saddened by today's shootings at Florida State University," said University of Florida President President Bernie Machen. "I know everyone in the University of Florida community joins me in sending our heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the victims and to the entire FSU community. Today, we are all FSU."

Melissa Broderick, a UF student from Miami, told News4Jax the shooting made her nervous about going to the library, adding she may do more studying at home.

UF police said this was a learning situation for them.

"I think that's what we're seeing is law enforcement response trying to intervene in these events and get them to stop as quickly as possible," UF Police Capt. Jeff Holcomb said.

University of North Florida faculty members were also rattled by the shooting at FSU, saying it's a reminder of just how vulnerable public universities are to violence.

"We are part of the state university system just like FSU. We are open to the public. Libraries are open to the public. It's just one of the concerns that we have to deal with every day," said Sharon Ashton, UNF's vice president of public relations. "But we are constantly looking at our policies and looking for ways to keep our student body, our faculty and staff and visitors safe."

Ashton said they routinely prepare for shootings or any other emergency on campus. 

"We have crisis management team that meets once a month and we drill two times a year," Ashton said. "In fact, last year we did our drill as a SWAT team having to come into the library. So we have evacuated the library before and have done a number of drills working with our accredited police department."

UNF also has 16 ways to communicate with students and staff. For example its internal public address system, like the one used at FSU, also an external PA system that broadcasts in parking lots around campus. They also make sure that every student is well versed on safety protocol.

"Every student goes through student orientation and part of that does include safety information," Ashton said. "And every semester we test out our system and we will send the students a text or phone and tell them this is a test message and then we will tell them this is what you do in case of an emergency and then we tell them the other ways we would communicate with them."

Ashton said right now they're thinking about the victims, but soon the attention will turn to lessons learned.

"Our hearts go out to everyone it's a tragedy. I can tell you that within the next month I will be getting together with my counterpart and we will go over lessons learned," Ashton said.

UNF Police Chief Frank Mackesy echoed those sentiments.

"It's a tragedy, and I hope the individuals that were injured as a result of this enjoy a speedy recovery. But I can tell you we don't take anything for granted here," Mackesy said. "We have over 16 different ways to communicate with our faculty, students and staff in a crisis. We use text messages, social media, email, cellphones."

The school has a PA system inside and out to warn students, faculty and staff of any danger. It also has a crisis management team that meets once a month to discuss emergency protocol.

Mackesy said the school takes a three-pronged approach to overall safety.

  • The first is prevention: The school has a system that encourages students to reach out to faculty if they see anyone acting in a fashion that makes them uncomfortable. The school responds by making contact with that person and finding out what's going on.
  • Secondly, intervention: The school will attempt to get that person help and follow up to make sure they continue receiving what they need.
  • Lastly, Enforcement: Twice a year, UNF does an active shooter drill, putting people in a real-life situation to see how they'll react.

"We're not trying to scare anybody," Mackesy said. "We're trying to educate them to the possibility."

Last year, the training was done in the library, a place, Mackesy said there could be a larger likelihood of something happening.

Mackesy said during orientation students get the info they need to stay safe in an emergency. But they can always check the UNF website for more information.

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