Department of Public Safety

690 South Church Street
West Chester, Pennsylvania 19383
610-436-3311


Frequently Asked Questions: Active Shooter

  • What steps is West Chester University taking to provide safe classrooms?
  • In the event of an emergency, what is my responsibility?
  • In the event of gunfire in my classroom building, should I evacuate my class, or should we stay where we are and barricade the door?
  • Would locking all classrooms during classes deter a shooter?
  • What should I consider in making my emergency plan?
  • What other steps should I take to prepare in advance for an emergency?
  • I still don’t feel comfortable; what is my next step to receive more information?

    What steps is West Chester University taking to provide safe classrooms?


    While no institution can guarantee absolute safety in the classroom or on campus grounds, WCU has taken the issue seriously and works continually to improve the safety of the University’s campus and classrooms. The guidelines in this FAQ are just one step toward a safer educational environment. Among the actions the University has taken are these:


    1. Purchase and activation of an emergency text messaging system.


    2. Use of the WCU Emergency Informational Home-page to notify the campus community of an emergency.


    3. Ability to utilize, if appropriate, the local media and the Chester County and West Chester Borough Reverse 911System for notification purposes.


    4. Purchase (in progress) of an external emergency notification system.


    5. Current comprehensive review of the emergency telephone and call box system on campus.


    6. Creation of a Threat Assessment Team (TAT) to collect information about possible threats and to recommend actions based on the determined threat.


    7. Training by the University Department of Public Safety (DPS) of all police officers on how to respond to an active shooter incident. Several of the DPS administrative staff are considered experts on the subject of active shooters and ensure that the department is trained in and equipped for the most up to date tactics and strategies.

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    In the event of an emergency, what is my responsibility?


    Many respected legal minds believe that, along with campus officials, faculty are important partners in providing for the safety of their classroom students in the event of an emergency, just as they oversee student safety during classroom and laboratory activities. All faculty should anticipate and plan how they would ensure the safety of their students in the event of an active shooter in the build-in. While anticipating every detail of an emergency is impossible, by planning ahead, faculty can greatly improve their students’ and their own odds of surviving the emergency.

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    In the event of gunfire in my classroom building, should I evacuate my class, or should we stay where we are and barricade the door?


    Statistically, the more distance you place between yourself and someone firing a weapon, the higher the probability that you will escape injury. Therefore, if you hear gunfire, your first course of action should be to evacuate yourself and your students away from the danger if you can safely do so. You should only consider sheltering in place or elsewhere within the building if evacuation is not possible.

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    Would locking all classrooms during classes deter a shooter?


    1. Most WCU classroom doors lock, although some can only be locked by using a key on the outside of the door. If you wish to engage the lock while teaching your class, you should do so, but relying solely on locks for safety has two fundamental problems: Most classroom doors have a glass window, and any modern firearm is powerful enough to shoot through even tempered or safety glass. A shooter could then easily unlock the door or reach victims through the glass.

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    What should I consider in making my emergency plan?


    1. Identify the type of emergency for which you are planning. This FAQ is designed to help you plan for an active shooter emergency.


    2. For an active shooter situation, select and become familiar with an area or building where you could most likely evacuate your class. Your evacuation site should be approximately 500 yards (five football fields) away from the incident. Ensure that the site will be open, available, and accessible during your class hours. Also select at least one alternative site and become familiar with it, too.


    3. Become familiar with all of the emergency exit routes in your classroom building. Determine at least two routes that you could take to evacuate yourself and your class from the building. Remain aware day to day of what is happening on these routes. For example, maintenance work could temporarily hinder access to a route.


    4. Although sheltering in the building should be your last recourse, also plan for the possibility that you and your class may not be able to leave your building. Select a shelter area in the building that will afford you the best concealment and cover. If you select your classroom, identify heavy items in the room that could be used to barricade the door. Consider whether the barricade would be visible through a window in the door and therefore indicate to an active shooter that possible victims are just beyond the door. Is there an interior room—without windows but with a lock—into which you could move your class and possibly go unnoticed by an active shooter?

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    What other steps should I take to prepare in advance for an emergency?


    1. You are encouraged to take roll at the start of each class. Prepare to take the attendance list with you in the event of an evacuation. Your attendance record will aid rescue personnel in determining who may still be in the building.


    2. Program your cell phone to speed dial 911(Chester County Emergency Services) and 610-436-3311 (WCU Department of Public Safety).


    3. Rehearse what you will need to tell an emergency dispatcher, including your name, what is happening, your location, whether injured persons are with you, and what you observed while you were evacuating.


    4. Once you have developed your emergency classroom plan, advise your students that in the event of an emergency, you have a plan; however, do not share the plan with your class. Letting your students know that you have planned for an emergency will give them confidence in you and increase the likelihood that they will follow your directions. The University does not publicize emergency evacuation sites because active shooters have in the past used such pre-designated sites as targets for their violence. For this same reason, your emergency plans should be kept confidential.


    5. Consider one of three options to ensure that your class will receive an emergency text message should one be sent: a) allow cell phones to be left on and silenced during class. b) designate several students to leave their cell phones on and silenced during class; or c) leave on your own personal cell phone.

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    I still don’t feel comfortable; what is my next step to receive more information?


    Faculty are encouraged to contact the director of public safety if they would like additional information or would like to discuss emergency planning. A wealth of information is also to be found on the Internet. The following Web sites may be particularly helpful:


    Emergency Preparedness

    Emergency Operations Plan

    Helpful Links

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