Preparing for an active threat at the UO can save lives

Police tape

The most recent school shooting in Florida has brought the topic of “active threats” to the forefront for many University of Oregon students, faculty, staff and parents.

After such tragedies, people ask what happens at the UO to prepare for, prevent and respond to an active threat like a shooter. The answer is: a lot. But a community of thousands like the UO can always do more to be ready.


The best chance to survive a mass violence event is a simple set of options:

Run: if you have a clear exit and are able to do so. Leave everything behind but your phone. Don’t stop running until you are far away, and don’t look back. Call 911 only when you are safe.

Hide: if it isn’t safe to run, the attacker is nearby and you have a place to hide. If in a room, shut and, if possible, lock the door, turn off lights, barricade the door, stay out of sight of windows, be quiet, turn phone to silent mode. Stay put until rescuers come for you.

Fight: as a last resort if the threat is imminent. Use anything available to you — bags, computers, furniture or anything else — and attempt to disable the attacker. Groups should work together to try to overwhelm an attacker.

When police arrive: follow the commands of law enforcement exactly. Officers may be curt as they try to find and stop the attacker. They will not have time to stop and help the wounded or scared. When police arrive, show your hands and keep them in the air as you follow directions.


Active threat incidents, as disturbing as they are and as often as they seem to happen worldwide, are still not common or likely. However, no one can say that such an event will “never happen here.” The smart thing to do, for the UO as an institution and as individual students and employees, is to be prepared.

The UO also stages trainings specifically for active threat incidents, using the “run-hide-fight” response philosophy. Training can include classroom sessions with information on threat recognition and an instructional video, but they also can include physical role-playing of the run, hide and fight scenarios.

Four trainings are scheduled in March: March 7, 10-11 a.m. in the Crater Lake Rooms at the Erb Memorial Union; March 13, 4-5 p.m. in Room 271, Franklin Building; March 20, 3-4 p.m. in the Crater Lake Rooms at the EMU; and March 22, 3-4 p.m. in the Crater Lake rooms at the EMU. Students are welcome and encouraged to attend. Employees can register through MyTrack.

More training opportunities for students are being planned for spring.

To be ready to receive critical information in an emergency, all students, employees and on-site contracted workers should subscribe to UO Alerts, the UO’s emergency message mass-distribution system. Around 85 percent of students opt-in, which is one of the highest rates in the country.

Subscribers receive an instant text message to one or two mobile devices, as well as an email to any accounts, with official information and safety instructions. Individuals who aren’t part of the UO community can also get these texts.

The UO tests UO Alerts several times each year and uses it regularly for warning of police activity, gas leaks, other fire concerns, weather notices and other immediate information.

The UO also prepares by having a standing incident management team of trained professionals from across campus that meets throughout each year and works together to plan and stage events and respond to unexpected situations. This group, along with the UO’s nationally recognized safety and risk services unit and police department, plan and train with other local agencies to respond to active threats and other hazards. The UO has constantly evolving emergency response plans for various threats, as well as an emergency response guide for employees and students.


The best way to realistically prevent a threat of mass-violence is to recognize warning signs and report them to police and the university. All campus community members are encouraged to share if they see alarming signs of mental distress that could lead to violence, like angry, threatening outbursts or writing in email, social media or on the internet. Immediate concerns should be reported directly to UO police at 541-346-2919.

The UO has a team that includes mental health professionals that review these cases when shared and takes steps to protect the community while connecting individuals in crisis with help and support. The goal of early detection is to get troubled individuals connected with services that can help them manage their troubles in a safe, healthy way.

The UO has mental health resources for students, as well as lots of programming to relieve stress and encourage healthy coping. Employees can take advantage of the Ombuds Program for getting advice working out concerns, and also has wellness resources like the Employee Assistance Program.


If an active threat event happens — whether it involves a shooting, a vehicle used as a weapon, or some other deadly act — several things will happen.

Within moments of information coming to UO police, a UO Alert text and email message will be sent to all 28,000-plus subscribers, providing succinct, known information and instructions for safety, like to stay away from a given area or shelter in place.

People in the affected area should run, hide or fight (see sidebar). People in other places should stay away from the affected area.

At the same time, UO police will immediately respond to the location. Other law enforcement from nearby agencies will also immediately head to campus for support, and emergency medical responders will be dispatched as well.

More texts and emails will follow with more information and instructions through UO Alerts. When the situation has ended and the threat has been neutralized, medical personnel will treat the wounded.

Information will go out to students and employees by UO Alerts, the alerts blog, the UO website and social media with instructions about where to go to retrieve belongings, get treatment, find classmates and other information.

The UO takes preparation and response to crises seriously. The university coordinates the Disaster-Resilient Universities Network and spearheaded a recent Governor's Campus Safety Workgroup that created recommendations for how Oregon campuses can be safer.