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U Holds Press Conference in Wake of UNLV Shooting

At the conference, Jason Hinojosa, administrative captain of the Department of Public Safety, detailed how the U prepares their students and departments for the possibility of an active shooter.
The+University+of+Utah+built+a+new+Department+of+Public+Safety+building+which+opened+to+the+public+on+Nov.+9%2C+2022+at+1658+E+500+S+as+part+of+an+effort+for+increased+campus+safety+coordination+after+the+death+of+U+student+Lauren+McCluskey+in+October+2018.
Jack Gambassi
The Department of Public Safety at the University of Utah, which opened to the public on Nov. 9, 2022. (Photo by Jack Gambassi on Nov. 22, 2022 | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

On Dec. 6, shots were fired on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas campus. Three faculty members were fatally shot and another was wounded in a 10-minute rampage. It was the 80th school shooting of 2023, and the 29th on a university campus, raising questions about the University of Utah’s preparation in the event of an active aggressor. 

The U held a press conference on Thursday to address these concerns. 

Preparing Students for an Active Shooter

Jason Hinojosa, administrative captain of the Department of Public Safety, was asked if Public Safety has a plan in place if something similar to the events occurring at UNLV happened at the U.

“It’s hard to say you’re really ever prepared,” Hinojosa said. “It’s such an enormous and overwhelming thing to face, but we do train and we do educate and try to be as prepared as we can possibly be for that type of incident.”

When it comes to student preparation, Hinojosa said, “It is the same thing as it is for anyone anywhere: run, hide, fight.”

Students can receive more in-depth training on “run, hide, fight” on the university’s Emergency Management website

“The second you think you hear gunshots, run,” the website reads. “Look for the nearest exit and run away from the gun sounds.”

If they can’t run, students are encouraged to hide.

The last resort is to fight, and “fight dirty,” according to the Emergency Management website.

“Throw stuff as hard as you can,” the website continues. “Tackle the shooter high and low. Subdue the gun. Gouge the eyes. Make a plan and work together.”

This training for students, along with other materials, is sent out every semester, said Shawn Wood, communications manager at the U.

The U also has a campus-wide alert system that sends out SMS texts to students and staff in the event of an emergency. 

Department Training with Public Safety

Hinojosa said they also provide training with various departments on campus. These trainings are offered through their website and are customizable to the needs of the department.

Departments receive training on both the noise effect and the smell of firearm use. This opportunity helps civilian staff and faculty gain a “little glimpse into the chaos,” learning how to hide or barricade a door. 

It is one thing to think or talk about these situations, but it is another step further to actually be in that kind of situation, Hinojosa said.

“The idea is to get people thinking about their day-to-day surroundings,” he added. “What are their escape routes if they have to run? Where can they hide? Where can they conceal themselves?”

In some scenarios, the only option is to fight. Hinojosa said the DPS guides departments through a “gentle simulation” of this to give the public a glimpse of “the sensations, the sights, the sounds.”

Public Safety Officer Training

Similarly, public safety officers are also trained to be aware of their surroundings and prepared for active aggressor scenarios. 

“We train for a response to an active assailant on campus,” Hinojosa said. “We do have some specialized equipment for responding to those kinds of incidents.”

Officers, like civilians, are encouraged to “look at what challenges [they] face with the layout of certain buildings, how the doors work, how to gain access to buildings on campus.”

Hinojosa added that by encouraging people to be aware of their surroundings, they aren’t aiming to frighten them.

“It’s just to increase awareness,” he said. “Not everybody is really thinking about, ‘What are my escape routes, how can I get out of this situation quickly, where can I hide?’”

Gearing up for the Future

“These mass shooting or active assailant incidents are fairly frequent,” Hinojosa said. “I don’t know how many hundreds we’re up to now but I think the last time I checked we average more than one a day.”

He added that while school shootings are not rare, they are still difficult to prepare for. There can be warning signs, but often these situations happen unexpectedly.

“We are always listening and willing to take reports from anybody who may have some concern,” he said.

There are lessons to be learned from incidents like this, Hinojosa said. 

“We have a robust system in place to prevent,” says Captain Hinojosa, “but if we do have a situation that arises, we also have the support and a robust situation to respond.”

Still, the work is not finished, as preparing for school shootings is “an ongoing thing,” Hinojosa said, adding, “It is something that we continuously think about.”

 

Editor’s note, Dec. 18 10:05 a.m. • This story was updated to clarify that three faculty members were killed and one other faculty member was wounded in the University of Nevada, Las Vegas shooting, not students like was previously written.

 

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@CarolineChrony

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About the Contributors
Caroline Krum, Investigative Writer
Caroline was born and raised in California and moved to Salt Lake City to pursue a degree in English education. She enjoys reading classic literature (especially Russian literature) and spends her weekends outdoors. Caroline fills her free time with plein air painting, attending museums, playing with her cat, watching vintage films, hiking, or playing the sims. She hopes to attend Grad school next fall to start working on her master's and doctorate.
Jack Gambassi, Photographer
Jack comes from Boise, Idaho and is a senior in the Honor's College majoring in economics with minors in Italian and chemistry. He is a pre-med student and hopes to go to medical school in the fall of 2024. Jack has been taking photos as a hobby since he was eight years old. After two years at the Chronicle, this will be his third and final year. A fun fact about Jack is that he speaks Italian.

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