Oregon massacre leaves local schools thinking about safety

By Ashley Harding - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Ten people were killed when a gunman opened fire at Oregon's Umpqua Community College on Thursday, forcing the nation to face yet another mass shooting.

Seven other people were injured, and the shooter is dead, Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin told reporters. Multiple law enforcement officials familiar with the investigation identified the gunman as 26-year-old Chris Harper Mercer.

As information continues to trickle out of Roseburg, Oregon, in wake of Thursday's mass shooting, local students and colleges are reacting and thinking about the plans they have in place in case they are faced with a similar situation.


A lot of students are in shock and upset about the shooting, but officials said there are a lot of things to keep in mind on campus. Emergency notifications are a big thing and start with the emergency call phones across Florida State College at Jacksonville's campus. But this is just the beginning.

Ashlea McCall is one of many local students on high alert following the deadly shooting in Oregon.

"Nobody expects for anything like that to happen," McCall said. "I don't know what I would do if it happened here except for to try to find a place to hide or get out as quickly as I could."

If there ever is an active shooter on campus, notification is the first step. Local college and university campuses have similar plans already in place. FSCJ, University of North Florida, and Jacksonville University each have a system where text messages, emails and social media posts go out if there are emergencies.


Then there are police and law enforcement agencies. The University of North Florida has its own police department and according to university spokespeople, FSCJ and JU both work closely with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. FSCJ also has an officer on each of their campuses while students are in class.

If a student is ever in a situation with an active shooter on campus, officials said knowing what to do is key. Different campus layouts can call for different procedures. At UNF, if students are not able to leave campus, it's recommended that they get to a safe room quickly, barricade the door and stay low. If possible, they recommend trying to exit through a window. Once a student is able to leave, officials say to move in the direction of first responders with hands raised.


News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith reminds people that campus procedures are different at every school which is why students really need to be familiar with the ones at their school. Those instructions can be found on the school's websites, or students can ask someone in administration.

"The location of the shooting. If they're inside, if they're outside. All that is going to make a difference," Smith said.

Smith explains that this kind of violence can happen anytime, anywhere. Those officers responding to the scene are prepared and that includes right here in Jacksonville.

"You don't know what causes it. You're just not expecting it. In Oregon, it's a small, remote college that is out in a wooded area," Smith said.

Smith said in the past, officers would stay off campus and wait for a SWAT team to arrive, but nowadays, officers are trained to respond to active shooters.


"If they hear shots being fired they will go to that area and try to apprehend the shooter. It's very dangerous, but if they hear shots fired, that's what they'll do," Smith said.

Smith said that now, officer training is meticulous and precise.

"How to approach a building, how to communicate with each other through hand signals and how to search rooms. Police officers are trained to do all those things," Smith explains.

Another thing Smith talked about was the importance of telling someone if someone hears a threat being made.

Statement from Jacksonville University:


"Jacksonville University is very saddened by the terrible tragedy today at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, and we send our sincerest condolences to all those affected.

"In light of media questions today related to JU security and its new mobile security app, JU works to ensure a safe, secure learning and work environment for our students, faculty, staff and visitors. Our security force works seamlessly with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office to prevent and respond to incidents on campus. We provide regular and/or immediate communications and updates on matters related to public safety to our students, faculty and staff, and are constantly seeking new methods to maintain and improve security.

"Jacksonville University this week released a new free mobile app aimed at further enhancing campus security. The app, called JU Mobile Safety, offers students, faculty, staff, parents and the community a series of safety features and resources customized for Jacksonville University. It is available for both Apple and Android devices.

"Developed by JU in collaboration with AppArmor, the main objective of JU Mobile Safety is to make campus safety resources and contacts more accessible for the school's 4,000+ students and strengthen emergency response reactions. The app provides quick access to Campus Security resources, geolocation features, interactive maps, and accessible emergency plans, which are available even when the user is offline. It also provides the University with the ability to send out mass notifications to all app users, even when the app isn't running.

"For more information, please see http://www.wavemagazineonline.com/new-security-mobile-app-promotes-safety-for-students-faculty/."

Statement from Florida State College at Jacksonville:


"FSCJ has an Emergency Response Team that continuously evaluates our safety and security plans to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff on each of our campuses. Response training and preparation is ongoing throughout the year as new information becomes available. An emergency notification system is also in place to alert the FSCJ community via text and email, as well as multiple other communication tools that provide pertinent information in the case of an emergency.

"FSCJ works closely with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and has an officer on each of our campuses while students are attending class."

Statement from the University of North Florida:


The University of North Florida's Crisis Management Team (CMT) works to ensure that UNF is prepared to respond to, recover from, and diminish the effects of a wide variety of disasters that could adversely affect the health, safety, and welfare of its students, faculty, staff, and visitors. The CMT at UNF meets on a regular basis, and members of the campus-wide team holds routine hands-on training exercises to help the campus community respond to a variety of potential threats.

In the event of an emergency, UNF will use as many modes of communication as possible to help get the word out quickly, including:

  • E-mails to students, faculty and staff
  • A recorded message to the phones of students, faculty and staff
  • Text messages to students, faculty and staff
  • Indoor public address systems
  • Outdoor public address systems
  • Information posted on UNF homepage
  • Information posted on the UNF myWings Portal
  • Information posted on the Blackboard portal
  • Information updated on UNF's main phone number, (904) 620-1000
  • Information on TV screens on campus
  • Information updated via the news media
  • Information on UNF's official Facebook page
  • Information on UNF's official Twitter account
  • Information on the electronic signs at the campus entrances

In addition, students, faculty, staff, and visitors may use the Emergency Code Blue telephones placed throughout the campus to request assistance or report an emergency.

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