School Emergency Drills Take on Added Significance

When school campuses conduct emergency drills, students and faculty usually evacuate imagining a fire or earthquake. Now, schools are adding shootings to their checklist.

Mary-Hardin Baylor, a Texas Baptist school, had an emergency response exercise last Wednesday, days after the Virginia Tech shooting. The drill was planned long before the rampage and was part of an ongoing program of training and preparation, especially for first responders, according to The Associated Baptist Press.

On the other side of the country, San Jose State University had also scheduled an evacuation drill long before the massacre that took 33 lives last Monday. But this time, their emergency response took on added significance in the wake of the shooting.

"When we did drills before, you didn't think about someone coming and shooting up the campus," Bob Neal, senior director of network services and a building coordinator, told San Jose Mercury News. "You'd think about fires or earthquakes. This just adds another thing to the checklist."

Meanwhile, the Virginia Tech massacre prompted other universities to review their emergency response plans.

The largest Baptist university in the world asked the question: "How prepared are we for such an occurrence?" in a message sent to the school's various constituencies, ABP reported. Baylor University in Waco, Texas, has over 13,000 students enrolled and employs 24 trained and commissioned police officers who conduct crisis simulation training exercises.

"While preventing an attack with 100 percent certainty is impossible, I want to reassure you that we do have systems in place to respond to emergencies on campus and to minimize harm to our students, staff and faculty," said Baylor President John Lilley, according to ABP. "It is impossible to predict when such tragedies will happen, but we are making our best effort to be prepared in case the unthinkable occurs."

After the Virginia Tech shooting, the smaller East Texas Baptist University in Marshall, Texas, sent out an emergency e-mail, telling students, faculty and staff that they will be informed on what actions to take if a crisis occurs.

Students at Virginia Tech returned to campus on Monday, remembering victims in tributes and resuming classes. An 850-pound brass bell, installed for Monday's occasion, chimed 33 times for each of the victims, including the gunman. The university is allowing students to drop classes without penalty or to accept their current grades if they want to spend the rest of the year at their parents' homes grieving.

For those who chose to stay on campus, although looking to return to normalcy, last week's tragedy will not be forgotten.

"I thought last week as time goes by that I could forget this tragic incident," graduate student Sijung Kim said to The Associated Press. "But as time goes by I find I cannot forget."