Incidents of Mass Violence: What if it Happened Here?

Duke Police Chief discusses issue of violence on college campuses

Duke Police Chief John Dailey discusses safety with the Duke community.
Duke Police Chief John Dailey discusses safety with the Duke community.

Last November’s on-campus attack at Ohio State University put the issue of mass violence on college campuses back in the headlines. Such incidents of mass violence also raise concerns and questions about how Duke would respond to such situations and how works to prevent them. Working@Duke recently talked with Duke Police Chief John Dailey to ask these and other questions about how to keep the campus safe, and what faculty, staff and students can do to protect themselves.

How does Duke help prevent incidents of violence on campus?

First of all, we have a well-trained and resourced police department. Our goal is always to identify and address potential concerns before they lead to potential violence. We have several important outreach services, including the Employee Behavioral Assessment Team. The team assesses situations of concern among faculty and staff such as domestic violence or communicating threats, and we have a student team that includes DukeReach, which focuses on concerns for students’ behavioral and physical health.

We also know how important it is for our department to create connections with the Duke community to help us do our job. We have a crime prevention team that conducted presentations to over 20,000 Duke students and employees last year, talking about everything from how to prevent theft to responding to an active shooter situation.

Most important, we all rely on each other to prevent violence. Being alert to behaviors that concern you and reporting them is a critical component of preventing active violence.

Duke has released a video about reacting to active shooter situations. Why is that information important to know?

If we look nationally, these incidents can happen anywhere, whether that’s a workplace, school, airport, movie theater or a restaurant. It’s a good idea to think beforehand of options should some type of violent incident happen near you. There probably won’t be time to look up on your phone or computer what to do. We want you to be familiar with the steps to take in case something happens near you.

In the video, the phrase ‘get out, hide out, take out’ is used to explain what people should do in case of an active shooter. What do those actions mean?

Your first goal should always be to get as far away from active violence as possible, which is why ‘get out’ is first. You have to take the best information you can and make a decision about how to safely leave or avoid a dangerous situation. But if you can’t, another option may be to hide. ‘Hide out’ is about staying out of sight or staying in a secured, locked room.

An absolute last option is ‘take out,’ when you have no choice but to confront an attacker.  The video offers suggestion for this scenario.

Where should people turn to for information in case of emergency?

We have several emergency tools in the case something bad is happening. The key is that any initial messaging may not have a lot of detail and people need to be able to react quickly to a general emergency alert as we gather details to send out more information. It takes responders time to arrive at the scene, gather information and understand exactly what is going on, initiate a response to stabilize or contain the emergency, and then compose a message in detail. Again, initial messages are to get your attention and will be general - follow up messages will have more information.

Know that initial messages are going to be very brief and may not have a lot of specifics. They might tell you to take shelter or avoid an area of campus. First messages are emergency messages to get the word out about potential danger before we may have all the details.

That’s why it’s necessary for faculty, staff and students to register for our DukeALERT system to receive real-time text messages. We also send emails and will post information on Twitter. There is the campus siren system if we need it and our DukeALERT website will provide updates.

What do campus community members need to keep in mind moving forward?

What’s important is that people think about protecting themselves before they receive an emergency alert or see something happening down the hallway. Once an incident begins, it happens fast, which means having this knowledge ahead of time can save your life.

It’s really important that people use opportunities to think about situations and what they might do when they occur, whether that’s during a DukeALERT test or when we hear about incidents happening elsewhere.

Put safety at your fingertips with Duke's mobile app, LiveSafe. The app is available for free download through Apple and Android app stores. For more information, visit the DukeALERT website.