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“Five OUTS” for Community Facing an On-Campus Active Shooter

After spending a few months in Happy Valley, it’s hard to remember that there is actually life past Park Ave. It takes events like the Virginia Tech University shooting to remind us that although we live in a giant bubble, we are not invincible. The attack on Gabrielle Giffords taught us that the possibility of a gunman in a public place could very easily become our reality one day.

I’m not trying to scare you. You can continue to work on your Bananagrams in the Forum without having to worry. This is why the Penn State Human Resource Development Center (HRDC), along with University Police and the Penn State Risk Management Office, has created an hour-long program that provides people with instructions and options in case an active shooter was to ever open fire on campus. “Five OUTS: Surviving an Active Shooter” was designed to create awareness, to encourage our campus to support safety.

The course includes a seven-minute video produced by Penn State Public Broadcasting and heavily relies on interaction between participants and the mediating University Police officers. The main focus was placed on the five “outs” or options you have in this type of crisis:

  • GET OUT of the area to somewhere safe. Leave the room and go in the opposite direction from any shooter.
  • CALL OUT to 911. Give as many details about what you saw or heard and your current location. Do not assume that someone else has called – you may have new information for the police.
  • HIDE OUT. If you can not leave, turn out the lights of the room you are in, and hide until help arrives. Avoid hallways, turn your cell phone on silent, and remain as quiet as possible.
  • KEEP OUT. Lock, block, or barricade the door with any available furniture.
  • TAKE OUT. This is a last resort when you have no other option, this is the life or death situation. Attempt to take out the shooter however you can.

According to Steve Shelow, director of University Police, this course is just one more component of Penn State’s emergency response preparedness. “Just like fire drills, where everyone knows what to do and understands their responsibilities, ‘Five OUTS’ is showing Penn Staters their options for handling an active shooter,” Shelow said. “With this training, participants will become more aware of options and can increase the possibility of a positive outcome.”

Currently, all Residence Assistants have participated in this program as part of their spring training. In January alone, over 900 people were reached by “Five OUTS.” It is available by request to all Penn State students for any club or organization by contacting the University Police. Professors are also able to schedule this presentation for classes they are teaching. HRDC recommends a maximum of 30 participants at a time because of the amount of discussion.

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