February 25, 2011
University of Iowa is Training Students, Staff to Survive Violent Incidents
By David Maccar
by David Maccar
The University of Iowa Department of Public Safety has developed a training program for students and staff to prepare them to survive violent incidents on campus and teach alternatives to helplessness.
The program is designed to teach students available options during a dangerous incident, such as the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007.
About 1,000 faculty, staff and students have already gone through the two-hour class, learning five steps: alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate.
The students learn how to improvise and adapt in a given situation by using objects at hand, like tying a door closed with a belt to prevent a gunman from entering,
The students are also taught a technique called “the swarm,” in which, upon the entry of a gunman into a classroom, the students immediately pelt the person with anything at hand, books, bags, laptops (they use Styrofoam balls and rubber guns during the training course) to block his vision as much as possible and maybe injure the attacker, causing him to lower his gun for a moment. Then the group collectively brings the person to the ground while gaining control of the weapon.
It sounds dangerous, but it’s better than being fish in a barrel for a crazed gunman.
When I was in high school, we had “preparedness” training after the Columbine massacre in 1999 where we were basically instructed to block the door if we could and cower in the farthest corner. Our other option was to take a three-story leap out of a window. My friends and I talked about Columbine a lot after it happened, and we always said that if enough students had rushed the gunmen, they would have been overpowered and lives could have been saved. Turns out, we may not have been too far off the mark. Then again, when bullets are flying, collective reasoning kind of goes out the window for the average mass of terror-stricken citizens.