An abiding lesson from the June 7, 2013 shooting at Santa Monica College is that training saves lives – it proved to be true that day and remains true today. Here’s why.
On the professional side, for a year or so prior to the shooting, the Santa Monica College Police Department had joined with the City of Santa Monica Police Department in joint exercises dealing with active shooters, among other scenarios. The training turned out to be fated; Three police officers – two from the Santa Monica Police Department and one from the campus force – rushed into the library that day per protocol and training and fatally wounded the attacker without any other loss of life inside the building.
One of those officers – SMC Captain Ray Bottenfield – learned later that the routine training provided to Santa Monica College staff during previous semesters had saved lives even before the officers rushed the gunman. That training, attended by one of the librarians, involved preparing oneself for an active shooter scenario. The librarian knew exactly what to do. She and eight others behind the counter headed for a storage closet in the back office, diverting the attacker. All remained unharmed behind the locked door. The story was memorialized in the Los Angeles Times by Martha Groves, dated June 14, 2013. The headline reads, “Santa Monica College library workers’ diversion saved lives.” It’s worth reading if you have a chance.
Since that day, Santa Monica College has taken even more steps in preparing for emergencies of all types. Most significantly, the College has added nearly one thousand video monitors covering all of its campuses and has placed electronic locks on virtually every door, internal and external, that can be ‘locked’ remotely in case of intrusion.
Beyond that, planning and training continues to be extensive and frequent, designed to protect students, staff, faculty, and guests. The Emergency Management Plan has been in place in its present form for more than a decade, covering every campus, including our new Center for Media and Design on Stewart Street; every year, SMC updates the plan and provides information about the plan to the entire District. Bulletins sent out electronically encourage faculty to cover plan material with their students. The plan is available in print, online, and a version of the plan is incorporated into a Campus Safety app, LiveSafe. The safety app has many features including silent reporting of incidents via texting, provides emergency procedures across the full range of possibilities, and offers references to numerous resources covering response and recovery. The police department takes every opportunity to promote this app including in-person presentations, workshops, campus resource fair, and at VIP Welcome Day (SMC’s all-day orientation for incoming freshmen), to name a few.
Printed bulletins are prominently displayed in every classroom regarding emergency preparedness, providing procedures and relevant phone information. The SMC website features links to numerous topics on emergency preparedness, including a video, “Run, Hide, Fight – Surviving an Active Shooter Event,” as well as comprehensive plans of what to do in the event of an active shooter.
And, as before, the College continues to hold regular training classes regarding emergency preparedness procedures and trains routinely to deal with such events. The tragedies faced by many campuses around the country are a reminder to us all to constantly strive and improve. Santa Monica College has been and is always committed to that endeavor in the hopes that it never happens again here at SMC.