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Reflections on Oregon Shooting

Christine L. Peterson, CPP, ISP Security Planning, Security Policy and Procedure Development, Security Program Development, Workplace Violence


empty classroomThe shooting at Umpqua Community College on October 1, 2015, made us think.

Security events are deliberate actions by people to cause harm. There is no way that any organization can keep people who are adequately motivated and have access to the right resources from attempting to commit harm. What we can do is harden ourselves as targets. This will displace the threat at best and detect, delay, and contain the event otherwise.

WRAL-TV put out the following compilation of some of the shootings at or near college campuses (Full story here).

A couple of things come to my mind that I would like to share. First, I’m sure that we as a country should do a better job of keeping weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill and others who would use those weapons as a means to threaten or due harm. The most often cited solution seems to be “background checks for gun purchases”. This seems like a good idea. However, determining that a person has a mental illness (and therefore should not own a gun) is not simple. Courts and law enforcement maintain records of individuals convicted of crimes. There is no database of people who have a mental illness.

Second, mass shootings should draw attention to the broken mental health system we have in the US. Mental illness is a treatable disease. It takes a variety of wrap-around services to protect the sufferer, their family, and the community. The people who commit violent acts are often predictable. The ability for them, their families, their employers, and the community to get the resources that they need before the point of crisis is challenging at best, if not impossible. With that said, we all have to understand and acknowledge that only a small percentage of the population will ever reach the point of committing an act so heinous as shooting innocent people at a community college, mall, or movie theater.

So what can we as businesses and individuals do to protect our organizations and ourselves? (Yes, a community college or other institution of learning is still a business.)

First, we can develop an integrated security program that starts with awareness.

Second, we should have awareness of our surroundings and the access points that will allow others to enter or allow us to escape during an event. We encourage all the businesses we work with to control access to maximize casual surveillance and provide for better control of an individual’s access once they are inside the space.

Next, we should have awareness of the people around us which includes the ability to know or ascertain who belongs and who does not. ID badges support this.

We should have training that prepares our population to respond rather than react. This training should protect lives and other critical assets. Would you want to rely on a police officer who has no training to protect you? Emergency events are dynamic. Countless lives were saved because the population knew what to do and where to go. In yesterday’s event, there was a student who knew that he needed to stop others from entering the campus. He was in a place to access his vehicle and drove away from the campus to stop traffic from entering the campus. That is a trained response that may have saved lives. He learned that from his military training, not at the community college. That is how we each want our constituents to respond during an emergency. There were similar stories at Sandy Hook and other events.

Last but not least, the security program has to be supported by policies, procedures, and other operationally sound documents, responsibilities, accountability, and technology.


Plan. Protect. Prosper.

Protus3 specializes in security system design, security consulting, corporate investigations and other investigative services. Partner with Protus3 and we will examine each situation to identify threats and develop solutions for your best outcome.

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