Law enforcement guides GV students through active shooter drill


GVL \ Lucas Swartzendruber

Lucas Swartzendruber, Editorial Intern

On Wednesday, Sept. 18, the Grand Valley State University Simulation Center hosted an active shooter drill at the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences (CHS).

“Simulation is equivocal to experiential learning, where students have an opportunity to get hands-on practice,” Director of Simulation Katie Branch said.

Branch said simulations help students develop skills in critical thinking and recall. She explained hospitals and health-related educational programs have simulation components built into their curriculum. Additionally, several organizations from Grand Rapids participate in a simulation collaborative.

Part of this collaborative involved discussion on how Grand Rapids could partake in Healthcare Simulation Week, Branch said. Subsequently, the idea to conduct an active shooter drill emerged. She mentioned the simulation took over eight months to plan.

First responders were involved in planning and directing the drill. Captain Kourosh Khatir of the Grand Valley Police Department mentioned the simulation was a perfect opportunity for university police to train with local partners. For large-scale incidents downtown, he explained GVPD does not have enough officers to respond accordingly.

Khatir said the drill allowed GVPD and the Grand Rapids Police Department to practice countering such scenarios as active shootings. Both organizations contributed instructors to guide students on survival tactics. GVPD Sergeant William O’Donnell oversaw the close-lock-barricade exercise.

O’Donnell highlighted two steps to take. First, immediately recognize the danger. Second, take appropriate action. O’Donnell asked students what exit they use, and they specified it was the main entrance to CHS.

O’Donnell advised against crowding the same exit, telling students to be aware of other exits in the building. His advice extended to jumping from open windows as a viable option for escape. Jumping from 12 feet above the ground is survivable, O’Donnell said.

After giving students some guidelines, O’ Donnell instructed them to barricade a classroom door as quickly as possible. Subsequently, students stacked tables and chairs against the entrance. Ultimately, O’Donnell congratulated the participants since they barricaded the door in under two minutes.

Khatir said, “I think (we do this) to develop the mindset. When we’re faced with a critical incident, we revert back to the training that we received.”

It would be very difficult to conduct active shooter drills at a university campus, Khatir said. On one hand, elementary and secondary schools often consist of single buildings. By contrast, GVSU has dozens of buildings. Given the university’s size, there would not be enough GVPD officers to handle the drill across an entire campus, Khatir said.

Instead, he explained survival tactics need to be applied within buildings. What students learned in CHS classrooms can apply to other classrooms across a campus, Khatir said. Furthermore, he said the hope is students will carry their training beyond college. For instance, Khatir said graduates at workplaces can consider where the exits are and what nearby objects they could use to defend themselves.

At one point during the exercise, O’Donnell mentioned an “active assailant.” Khatir clarified the term refers to anyone’s intent on doing harm by means not limited to guns. Tactics for surviving active shootings also apply to other incidents of active assailants.

Senior Alyssa Vodak, who works at the GVSU Simulation Center, and she heard of the active shooter drill from her superior there. She mentioned wanting to teach after graduating college and the drill got her thinking about being prepared to protect her future class and herself.

Vodak said, the simulation was proactive because it emphasized having a plan. She noted the experience proved informational; she liked seeing how students dealt with a simulated shooter coming in. Vodak said she knows enough to inform her friends about safety precautions when going out to eat.

“I learned that we need to be aware of all of our surroundings in any situation,” Vodak said. “It’s not just with shootings. It can happen anywhere.”