Here at Georgetown, we are located in one of the most secure neighborhoods in Washington, according to city data. Many of us are lucky enough to have caring, conscientious friends who look out for us when we walk home after it gets dark at night. We have a capable, well-trained staff of police officers at the Georgetown University Police Department that has a seemingly ubiquitous presence on campus.
However, such factors do not make the Hilltop invulnerable to the threat of gun violence.
Over 160 school shootings have taken place in the past three years since Sandy Hook. Gun-related incidents on campuses have become all too commonplace in America. Just over the course of last semester, we witnessed deadly shootings at colleges in RosebuTrg, Ore., Sacramento, Calif., Flagstaff, Ariz. and Winston-Salem, N.C. that injured and killed a combined total of more than thirty people. The Center for American Progress has confirmed that gun violence in 2015 has outpaced automobile accidents and drug overdoses to become the leading cause of death amongst people ages 18-30.
To address this threat, partners across our university — administrators, staff and students groups like mine, Georgetown Against Gun Violence — have joined together in conversations to see what we can do to make our campus safer.
Last week, our team took the necessary step of launching our new website, activeshooter.georgetown.edu. It serves as the first piece of a larger public awareness campaign for active shooter preparedness that will last from now until the end of the semester. The website will allow our community to familiarize itself with information about best practices, resources and how to sign up for the 30-minute “run, hide, fight” safety training course led by experts from GUPD and the Department of Emergency Management and Operational Continuity. We are grateful to groups like the Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Services, Active Minds GU and the GUSA Senate for recognizing the urgency of this matter and pledging to be some of the first participants in this training in January. The Georgetown University Law Center and the Georgetown University Medical Center have also taken initiative in offering this safety training program to students, staff and faculty on their campuses as well as main campus.
The participation of the previously mentioned organizations should inspire all Georgetown students to take charge of their safety.
If you serve in a leadership role in a student organization or staff or faculty body, we strongly encourage you to take the lead on safety for yourself and your peers and attend one of our training sessions.
Educate yourself about gun violence by attending our monthly expert panels. Each month we are inviting the Georgetown community to gather together to listen to speakers from the university and guests from the non-profit, government and business worlds to talk about their experience preparing for and working against the threat of violence at schools.
Take advantage of the wide array of mental health, school safety and prevention resources available to us on campus. Here on the Hilltop, we are very lucky to have administrators and staff who truly care about our safety. Any student can take advantage of university resources available to them through the GUPD and the Office of Counseling and Psychiatric Services, as well as be in contact with our Director for Threat Assessment if he is concerned about himself or another individual. In addition, student groups like the GUSA Senate Subcommittee on Student Health and Safety, Georgetown Against Gun Violence and the Student Safety Advisory Board all provide platforms for support, education and engagement on this issue.
While we wish it were not necessary to offer a training program like this one, we cannot ignore national trends. Young people in the United States are getting killed by guns, both on campuses and off, at a higher frequency and in greater numbers than ever before. Research shows that contingency protocols for active shooter scenarios can save lives. By becoming aware of best practices like “run, hide, fight” we can empower ourselves and our friends to be as safe as possible. We cannot afford to sit still and ignore the possibility of the unimaginable becoming reality.
So, this semester we implore you to take advantage of all the resources and opportunities that the campaign team is offering. Whether it’s participating in a safety training session, attending one of our panels, perusing our website, downloading LiveSafe, signing up for HOYAlert or simply reading op-eds like this one, take a stake in your safety at Georgetown. Sadly, it may just save your life.
Jay Gruber is chief of the Georgetown University Police Department. Emma Iannini (SFS ‘16) is president of Georgetown Against Gun Violence. Chris Barbera is Acting Director for the Department of Emergency Management & Instructional Continuity (DEMOC).