After the Valentine’s Day 2018 massacre in Parkland, Florida, the national conversation about gun violence in schools flared up once again. As tragedies like this one become more and more frequent, schools nationwide are forced to answer the question, “How will we respond?”
Keith McClearn, the Director of Safety and Security at Covenant, says, “Hopefully, our security profile at Covenant continues to evolve in the right direction.” So far, it has evolved by responding in three ways: by working with other organizations and individuals, by updating facilities, and by increasing awareness.
The department has been working with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (G.E.M.A.) throughout this year to educate college staff, faculty, resident directors, and resident assistants.
At a faculty meeting on April 3, 2018, G.E.M.A. representatives David Shanks and Tim Reeve gave a presentation covering disaster response psychology, active shooter events, and civilian response which McClearn described as “an unpleasant but necessary topic.”
In an interview, McClearn said while active shooter preparedness is necessary, prayer is the most powerful weapon against evil and the fear that evil instills, and he asked the campus community to “live in prayer rather than in fear.”
On top of using G.E.M.A.’s resources, McClearn has also been in dialogue with the Director of Campus Safety at John Brown University, who recently came to Covenant to give advice and insights.
J.B.U., an Arkansas college similar to Covenant in mission and enrollment size, had an incident on November 2017 in which a student was accused of threatening a mass killing. The student was arrested on suspicions of criminal acts involving explosives, and police found multiple firearms in his campus dorm room.
Covenant’s Safety and Security Department has also been working with the Chattanooga Police Department, both on and off campus. Covenant alumni within the C.P.D. have recently begun providing security at off-campus student events. The C.P.D. SWAT team came to campus for the first time ever on the night of March 21 to conduct training exercises in front of the Chapel.
In addition to working with others, McClearn hopes to further ensure safety on campus by improving its facilities.
More security cameras have been installed across campus and doors capable of going on lockdown in the event of an emergency are spread around campus. Stop the Bleed kits are also featured in every building on campus. These kits contain the necessary equipment to dress a gunshot wound or other traumatic injury in order to buy time until ambulances arrive. McClearn also hopes to transition to armed guards on campus 24/7.
Moreover, the Safety and Security Department is working to increase awareness across campus. Its website was recently updated to provide more resources for students. Two videos on the website explain three responses in an active shooter event: run, hide, or fight. A third video, titled “Evan,” shows signs that a person who is planning on committing an act of mass violence may display.
The website also features “See Something/Say Something” which allows students and faculty to send anonymous tips of suspicious or concerning behavior. “There’s no delay with these tips,” said McClearn. “They go straight to my phone.”
Since school has begun, Safety and Security has already offered an active shooter training seminar that featured footage of school shootings and instructions on what to do in this kind of crisis.
As McClearn and his department continue to update security measures against potential active shooters, students can be on the lookout for more information on this planned training in the future.