Vanderbilt revises guidelines for responding to active shooter

The Vanderbilt University campus against the Nashville skyline. (Vanderbilt University)
(Vanderbilt University)

As part of an ongoing review of emergency preparedness, Vanderbilt University has revised guidelines on how to respond to an active shooter situation on the campus.

Faculty, staff and students are asked to review and be knowledgeable about the guidelines so that they can protect themselves and help others if such an incident were to occur on campus. In addition, Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) has developed a policy that emphasizes the unique circumstances and responsibilities of those in patient care areas. VUMC faculty, staff and house staff will be tested on the policy as part of their annual performance evaluation process.

Based on best practices and recommendations of the Department of Homeland Security, the university guidelines emphasize the need for individuals to familiarize themselves with their surroundings and possible escape routes, and consider how they might react in an active shooter situation. While the police should be notified immediately, these types of events can evolve rapidly and may require action before police arrive.

An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined or populated area. High-profile active shooter situations have included the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech in which 32 people were killed and the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that claimed 26 lives.

“We ask that faculty members acquaint themselves with these guidelines so that they can address the concerns of students and others if such a threatening situation occurs,” said Richard McCarty, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“Students are being encouraged to study the guidelines as well, but we know it is likely that they will also turn to faculty members for support,” McCarty said.

Traci Nordberg, associate vice chancellor and chief human resource officer, said, “It is critically important that we prepare in order to protect ourselves, students, colleagues and others if the need arises. Because these situations occur unexpectedly and unfold rapidly, the university expects everyone to become familiar with the response protocol and prepare to respond quickly and effectively.”

In order to do this, three basic principles are stressed:

  • RUN – If there is a way to escape the threat and you are reasonably sure you can do so without being harmed, do it. This is your first and best option.
  • HIDE – If evacuation is not possible, “secure in place,” or if the active shooter is outdoors, take shelter.
  • FIGHT – If you cannot evacuate or hide and your life is in imminent danger, as a last resort you must be ready to defend yourself.

If you have been a victim of violence or expect to have a strong response to these guidelines, support is available. Please contact the following resources:

  • Faculty and staff: Worklife Connections-Employee Assistance Program, located in the Medical Arts Building, Suite 018, 1211 21st Ave. S., or call (615) 936-1327.
  • Students: Psychological and Counseling Center, (615) 322-2571.
  • All: Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life, (615) 322-2457.

Contact: Rick Burr