Twenty-six people were shot and killed while attending a church service in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on Nov. 5. The next day, PLNU students gathered in Brown Chapel, just as they did every Monday. With chapel being the largest gathering of students at PLNU, what measures are in place to keep it safe?
Chapel ushers were trained to watch students in chapel, noting the times they come in and out, and if anything is out of the usual, according to Michelle Garcia, administrative chapel assistant and senior environmental science major. Should they see anything suspicious, they then report it to the public safety officer that patrols the back of Brown Chapel.
“The chapel ushers are looking for PLNU students who are coming into chapel between 9:20 and five minutes after chapel or so,” said Garcia. “If someone comes in at a weird time, they’re aware of it.”
The outer doors of the chapel are also kept locked from 10 minutes into the service until the end, according to Garcia. This helps filter who is coming in at odd times and allows ushers to keep an eye on them. However, Garcia has not seen any major incidents in her time as a chapel scanner.
Should there be a suspicious individual in the chapel or other areas of campus, the Public Safety office will ask them what their business is at the school, according to Kaz Trypuc, PLNU Public Safety Advisor. If they are disruptive, they will be asked to leave.
Public Safety has been working on improving the campus’s readiness for an incident with lockdown drills. The third annual drill will be coming up in the spring. Should there be an incident of a dangerous person on campus, Public Safety’s messaging system could alert the campus as soon as Public Safety has word that something is occurring.
“We’ve spent years trying to ready the campus for a lockdown situation,” Trypuc said. “We encourage our employees and students to report anything that they see that seems out of the ordinary, hoping that we can step in and intervene or investigate.”
There is one armed officer on campus, the director of Public Safety, who would engage an armed person should they be on campus. The other officers will immediately call 911 and work on alerting the campus to enter lockdown procedure, as well as monitoring security cameras to locate the individual. Other Public Safety officers are not trained or equipped to engage armed individuals.
In the wake of the attack in Texas, as well as the Las Vegas shooting, there will not be any added measures to chapel security.
“I think there are concerns that we all have about how frequent these incidents seem like they’re becoming,” Trypuc said. “That said, we’re not taking any additional safety precautions beyond what we’re already doing.”
In situations of an armed or dangerous person present, the best course of action is to run from the situation, hide or attack, if necessary, according to Trypuc.
“At this point in time, my sense is that, sadly, people are all too familiar with these type of incidences,” Trypuc said. “And generally, when I’m reading about how these events are unfolding, it seems like the public, for the most part, knows what to do now. People know you have to do whatever you have to do to get to safety and save your life and others.”