Scott Torre sits in his office. He grabs a bulletproof vest by his desk.
“This stuff isn’t because I like the clothing. If I am going out, I put it on because it identifies me.”
There is an average of one school shooting per week, according to CNN statistics.
“Terrorism is an act of terror,” said Dr. Maryellen Hamilton, chair and professor of the Psychology Department. “It’s supposed to terrorize us to the point where we don’t live our lives. The only way to combat it is to go out and live your life anyway… Are we going to walk around terrified or are we going to go ahead and live our lives giving a lot of power to people?”
Out of the 365 days in 2018, we had 323 mass shootings. In 2017, there were 346 mass shootings. According to the Gun Violence Archive, a mass shooting is defined by ONLY on the numeric value of four or more shot or killed, not including the shooter.
“I have an email thread, it’s called Hero.com. It tells me all the active shooters as they are occurring. Pretty much, on a weekly basis, I get some type of an active shooter [notification],” said Scott Torre, the Director for Campus Safety at Saint Peter’s University.
Torre has trained with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and through his intensive active shooter response training with the Alert Lockdown Inform Counter Evacuate (ALICE), he would be the university incident commander.
As soon as first responders, police, the fire department and professional rescuers are here, he would relinquish his command to them and they would become the incident commanders. He then becomes part of unity of command, which makes him a team member under protocol.
Saint Peter’s University is amongst the 950 higher education institutions that follows the ALICE training institute active shooter response training.
“It’s scary because you forget where you are, and how easily something like that can happen,” said Dr. Hamilton. “If you look in every single classroom, there is an evacuation drill hanging on the wall. That is all new. That is post-Virginia Tech.”
The Virginia Tech shooting occurred on April 16, 2007. It left 32 dead and 17 wounded. It is -- at the time of this article -- known as the deadliest school massacre in U.S. history.
Schools around the country, including SPU, have altered their security measures post-Virginia Tech.
“They also changed all the locks on our doors. It used to be that the doors locked from the outside, so what good does that do us? Now they lock from the inside,” said Dr. Hamilton. “They also implemented the cell phone alerts.”
The intruder resistant locks were installed in 2015, just a year after Torre became Director of Campus Safety.
It’s designed to make it very easy to go on a lock down. In 2016, the cell phone alerts were put in the system. All 3,600 people in the system will be sent a notification by Torre under emergency protocol. Within 5 seconds of sending it out, every student and staff member on campus will be notified.
The blue lights around the towers have a public announcement function, allowing Torre to broadcast straight through his phone.
“I think we are ahead of many universities in active shooter response and training. I am pretty proud of what we do here, we have a very safe campus,” said Torre.
Very few incidents occur on campus. According to the recent campus Clery data, which is the crime statistics at a college campus, the clery statistics report very few crimes.
Saint Peter’s does not monitor students social media, unlike other schools, according to Torre.
“We have really good kids here,” said Torre. “It’s really a difficult world we live in. When I was your age, the world was so much simpler than it is now. I feel bad for you guys. Just going to the mall, you shouldn’t have to think about these things.”
Maya Warren, a Saint Peter’s University library work-study, said she kind of knows the protocol for school shootings on campus. She and her fellow work-study, Sam King, sit at their desks, helping students with questions about books.
Warren is aware of the alerts on her phone, which was told to her as a freshman. She explains that a higher authority will designate where students will go.
Despite feeling safe at Saint Peter’s, Warren lacks confidence that other schools will provide similar safety measures.
“I’m scared to go to other schools. I’ll go, but I still have - a little bit in my heart - I have a fear like what if something happens at this school?” she said.
Sasha Rubio, senior at SPU, attended an informational session in April 2017 on what to do during a school shooting.
Rubio watched a video on a shooting on a college campus, and Torre informed students that the police are on call at all times during the session, “They would be on here on the spot.”
Rubio says she sometimes gets panicky and anxious when thinking about school shootings, but she tries not to think about it too much.
“It is a crazy world that we adapted to living in,” said Dr. Hamilton. “I am sure there are people walking around at a constant state of anxiety, but that is a crazy way to live.”
She repeats, “You gotta be vigilant. Vigilance is the key.”