UC Berkeley students feel unready for potential campus shooter situation

Emma Drake/Staff

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With the occurrence of over 20 school shootings in the United States just this year, the UCPD continues to prepare UC Berkeley for this type of situation, though campus community members still don’t feel prepared. 

UCPD Sgt. Sabrina Reich said the possibility of an active shooter incident occurring on campus is “relatively low” and UCPD has been training for active shooter response since 2000. UCPD officers do in-depth scenario training and are trained to stop the shooting as well as immediately engage the shooter as top priority, according to Margo Bennett, UCPD chief of police. 

“I feel like it’s not something that we talk about a lot, and I feel like it’s a possibility that it could happen. … but I feel like the school doesn’t really say what you would do,” said campus senior Jolana Chan. “I don’t really know if I would know what to do.”

Chan added that she thought it would be helpful for the campus community to have a collective plan for active shooter situations. 

Campus sophomore Pedro Repsold de Sanson said he doesn’t feel he would know how to react in the case of a shooting and wondered where he would go or if there is a specific strategy he should employ. Sanson noted that he had not seen any collective training for UC Berkeley students, and that without a plan, it might be difficult to organize students safely. 

“There are steps everyone can take to improve their chances of survival in the critical minutes before officers arrive,” Reich said in an email. “It’s important for everyone to mentally prepare in advance, to have a plan for ‘what if’ this happens, and discuss the plan with those they trust.”

A presentation entitled “Tools to Survive Targeted Violence,” focusing on how to be aware of one’s surroundings, make decisions about running, hiding or fighting an attacker, is available to community members upon request, according to Bennett. She also said UCPD is currently working with campus residence halls to introduce active shooter training to new students. 

GSI Tyler Haddow said he doesn’t recall any information preparing him for an active shooter situation when he was hired six years ago.

“If it just happened in a section, I would be in a natural leadership position just because I’m the (GSI), and I would not know what to tell all of my students,” Haddow said. “I’m pretty scared.” 

Bennett urged community members to update their contact information for UCPD’s emergency alert system, WarnMe, which students and staff with a UC Berkeley email address are automatically enrolled in. She said in the case of an emergency, individuals would be notified of an active shooter situation through the system with a “big blast” text message and by alert and warning sirens, which are tested on the first Wednesday of every month.

UC Berkeley is also equipped with ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology, which is located around the campus. According to Bennett, the technology is able to locate where a shot came from and immediately alert both the Berkeley Police Department and UCPD. UCPD has begun installing these sensors in “critical” buildings as well and will be finished outfitting two campus libraries in the next few months, Bennett said. 

“I think we’ve lost the point in time when we can say that nothing like (an active shooter situation) is going to happen here,” Bennett said. “The best thing that we can do is to know how to protect one another.”

Emily Hom is a student life reporter. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @hom_emily.