FIU, MDPD train staff to respond to armed assailants

Columbine. Sandy Hook. Florida State University. Orlando. The list of mass shootings in the United States continues to grow, forever changing thousands of lives of those who have been, or who knew, the victims.

And now two teenagers are dead and more than a dozen other people are injured after a shooter opened fire outside a Fort Myers nightclub hosting a teen party on July 24.

FIU is taking steps to ensure the safety of students and staff should an armed assailant ever set foot on campus, starting with a training exercise at the Green Library in June to teach staff how to respond to an attack by an active shooter.

The exercise brought together FIU library staff and officers from the FIU and Miami-Dade County police departments to stage a simulated campus shooting in the Green Library.

Two members of MDPD posed as shooters, entering the library carrying assault rifles loaded with blanks and “opening fire” on staff involved in the exercise. Members of FIUPD, MDPD and local SWAT teams responded, apprehending the active shooters.

Participants were trained in the proper strategy to use when facing an active shooter: Run, hide, fight.

The procedure emphasizes running from the assailant and finding a place to hide while officers take control of the situation. Attempting to fight back is only advisable if the assailant is an immediate threat, and there are no officers in the room for protection.

FIU Chief of Police Alexander Casas said that although staff members have never before been involved in officer response trainings at FIU, it is something that should be more common within the university and across the nation.

“Now we are including staff members, the people who are going to be there while this happens, who are going to be calling us for help, but are going to be there for two or three minutes on their own, getting them ready on what to do should these things occur,” Casas said.

Anne Prestamo, the dean of libraries at FIU, said the exercise provided insight that will prepare the library staff to respond in the event of a threat to students’ lives.

“Tragedies such as the FSU Library shooting last year have demonstrated the need for library faculty and staff members to be prepared for such events,” she said. “The exercise provided a controlled setting in which our staff received training, and the experience was invaluable for both our staff and for the FIU Police Department.”