KSU police, community reflect on emergency response


Rachael Le Goubin

University spokesman Eric Mansfield prepares to give a press conference in Franklin Hall on Wednesday, April 2, 2014. The press conference was held to update the media on the events unfolding on campus during the night of the campus lockdown.

Katherine Schaeffer

On Wednesday, April 2, Kent State ordered a campus-wide lockdown when a shot was fired in front of Bowman Hall. At first, the origin of the gunshot — fired during a heated domestic dispute — was unclear. Dozens of 911 calls came in from panicked students and staff fearing an active shooter.

One call came from a flustered group of six students in the Business Administration Building, who weren’t sure if they should stay put or try to evacuate the building:

 “There’s been an announcement going around that there were shots fired … We’re not sure what to do … We can’t lock the doors. They’re not lockable.”

Wednesday’s lockdown served as a dry run for Kent State Police, who have been training to combat an active shooter since the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, but the incident proved that some students and staff are not well-prepared to handle such an emergency.

Kent State police officer Lt. Joe Hendry, who also serves as an expert consultant to the Ohio Department of Homeland Security for civilian response to active-shooter incidents, has spent years studying active shooter trends.

Hendry said while police response to the incident went well, the incident highlighted areas in which the university could improve, among them, providing better training for students and staff.

“Overall, for a major response at a university with thousands of people on campus, buildings open all over the place and the initial calls coming in leading us to believe it was an active shooter, the response went really smoothly,” Hendry said.

Kent State police officer Michquel Penn said the event called attention to two major rifts in communication: malfunctioning PA systems in certain buildings created confusion, and some students didn’t receive Flash Alerts until several minutes after they were sent.

The police department, which had been running midnight PA system tests for several weeks before the lockdown, said it is now paying special attention to fixing the problem systems. Although the police are looking into fixing Flash Alerts as well, they’ve found that the delay in text messaging may be an issue with specific wireless carriers, rather than the notification system itself.

Hendry, a national instructor for the Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate training program, or A.L.I.C.E.,  said he hopes the lockdown will serve as a catalyst for the Kent State community to prioritize A.L.I.C.E. training on campus. A.L.I.C.E., a training program designed to teach active shooter survival techniques, has been offered on an optional basis to Kent State students and staff since 2010.

According to data compiled by Kent State’s human resources department, about 7,000 students and staff have chosen to go through the training.

“I’d like to get more faculty into the class and have them attend, so if they do have an incident, everyone in the room’s on the same page of music, and they all know how to respond,” Hendry said.

A.L.I.C.E. teaches that lockdown, the go-to response for most active shooter incidents, is not always appropriate, and sometimes, it’s safer to evacuate. Among other survival tactics, A.L.I.C.E. also teaches participants how to barricade doors in situations where it may seem impossible.

A.L.I.C.E. training is a requirement for students and faculty at The University of Akron, a model Hendry believes Kent State should consider adopting.

“There’s a couple colleges in the university that have made it mandatory for class, which is highly recommended,” Hendry said. “I think we need to revisit that and look at potentially making it mandatory for people to attend so that everyone knows what they should be doing.”

Senior psychology major Marian Zgodinski, who has attended two A.L.I.C.E. training sessions, was taking an MCAT class on the third floor of the Student Center when the lockdown alarm sounded.

“I feel like we were really prepared. I think the A.L.I.C.E. training is the best thing that they can do,” Zgodinski said. “I think it’s a valuable thing. I think everybody should have some kind of exposure to it, just because of the number of times that school shootings come about.”

Some colleges, including the Colleges of Business and Education, have made A.L.I.C.E. training a required part of their curriculums. Freshmen are also encouraged to take an A.L.I.C.E. training class as part of their of their First Year Experience class.

Contact Katherine Schaeffer at [email protected].