Campus shootings: How Kent State would respond

With a gunman killing at least 32 people at Virginia Tech, universities around the nation are evaluating their safety precautions for rampages like this.

John Peach, Kent State police chief, said in situations where a gunman is in a residence hall, the buildings will go under lockdown.

“If there’s a gunman in there, you don’t want everyone to run the hallways,” he said.

Students should lock their doors to make it as difficult as possible for a gunman to confront them. This will at least provide more safety and time until law enforcement arrives, Peach said.

He said in major crises, a radio transmitter sends a call simultaneously to a designated receiver in each building, usually at a reception desk. In residence halls, a person should be by the receiver at all times. Whoever receives the call is responsible for following and implementing the proper instructions, Peach said.

“It can be used for just about every emergency we have that needs quick notification,” he said.

If a gunman were to be outside on campus, he said it would be “impossible to get adequate warnings exteriorly.” However, students should use common sense to ensure their safety by seeking shelter and not trying to disarm the gunman.

Within 20 minutes of an emergency, the university sends an e-mail to all FlashLine accounts. He said simultaneous voice mails to all campus phones is another security measure.

Lt. Jayme Cole of the Kent Police Department said in a situation like this, the Kent State University Police Department would be the first to respond and would have to call other police forces for backup.

“The city police will respond to a call from the campus police if they need our help,” he said. “We will then provide them with whatever assistance is requested from us.”

“We have a tremendous working relationship with the campus police,” Cole added.

Portage County Sheriff Duane Kaley said the Sheriff’s Department would react in a similar fashion.

“First of all, Kent State University has a very good police department,” Kaley said. “But if they needed assistance from us, we would respond immediately.”

Cole said that as of yesterday, he didn’t know any details on Virginia Tech’s case, but in a situation with a single gunman, it might be more difficult to detect the shooter if he was concealed.

“It’s not an appropriate characterization to say whether it’s easier to find a single gunman or a group of shooters,” he said. “It all depends on where it takes place.”

Cole said because the city of Kent doesn’t have a concentrated population like the on-campus population, it would be more difficult for the city to notify everyone to stay inside.

“It would be a huge operation to accomplish for the city,” he said. “But if we had all the technological resources to warn the population, we would.”

Kaley said it is very difficult to be prepared for a shooting spree like this.

“You always try to be prepared for incidents like these through training,” Kaley said. “But these incidents aren’t the norm — they are spur of the moment occurrences — but we would do anything we could do to help.”

At Virginia Tech, a student reporter captured some footage of gun shots being fired. Cole said while that is dangerous, it can also be helpful.

“If bullets are flying, I would encourage everyone to hide and get out of the way,” Cole said. “If they did get pictures or video of the suspect and they hand that information over to police, then it is very helpful.”

Contact public affairs reporters Kurt Jakub at [email protected] and Charlotte Muller at [email protected] and safety reporter Morgan Day at [email protected].