AUSTIN (KXAN) — Monday, UT Austin’s Police Department hosted a civilian training on responding to an active shooter situation. This training is geared toward students and builds on the department’s growing efforts to be prepared in the event that the worst-case-scenario unfolds on campus.
UTPD has hosted trainings like this before, but only by request. This was the first time the department had an open training for any students who dropped by, and they intend to have more of these trainings in the future.
UTPD officers led a discussion Monday on active shooter events and provide students with options that adhere to the Run, Hide Fight protocol the department uses.
Officer Dustin Farahnak with UTPD (who is also a law school student at UT) oversaw the presentation. He explained that it can be more challenging to get students involved in trainings related to campus safety, as opposed to staff members who can have safety trainings more easily included in their work responsibilities.
“We’re trying to find new ways proactively to bring students in here but it’s a need that we saw need to be addressed, that’s why we’re here,” he said.
Farahnak reminded students that UT Austin has a history of having to carry out tough conversations of mass violence, the UT Police Department was formed in response to the 1966 UT Tower shooting.
He also pointed out to students that there’s a higher risk for them to encounter an active shooter when they’re at a commercial establishment than when they’re on campus.
“When you’re at HEB or Drafthouse, you need to be thinking about these things as much if not more,” he said.
Farahnak offered students some best practices: it is not safe to play dead or hide in the bathroom during an active shooter situation. Instead, it’s better to avoid places that only have one way in and out.
He added that it can help you to stay calm during a crisis by keeping your heart rate down, he has an alert set on his smartwatch to tell him when his heart rate goes above 130 beats per minute. Too high of a heart rate, Farahnak explained, and you could compromise your ability to make good decisions in an emergency.
UT student Lucy Chism attended, as a public health student she felt this type of knowledge would benefit her. Chism said she wished more students dropped by to attend on Monday. She felt Farahnak had useful knowledge to share with the students.
“Because I did thin it was really important, one of the things he said was,’your lizard brain wants to like hide and huddle in a situation where you think you’re safe but you might not necessarily be safe’ and so knowing where to go beforehand and thinking about all the stuff beforehand is really important,” Chism said. “So I would just encourage other UT students to educate themselves.”
Last Saturday, a gunman killed 7 people and wounded 25 others near the UT Permian Basin campus in the West Texas town of Odessa. Four University of Texas at Austin Police Department officers traveled to Odessa Monday morning to help UT Permian Basin, including officers from the Department’s Public Order Division. The division is responsible for responding to large scale threats and includes K-9 officers and bike patrols.
Hector Luevano leads Team Two on UTPD’s Public Order Division: the officers responsible to respond to active threats on UT-Austin’s campus. The team just began in August and have been going through weekly training.
“Just the different puzzle pieces. When you look at it and stand back on how vast it can be. Even the simplest role of helping someone cross the street or being there is just as important,” Luevano told KXAN on Thursday.
Luevano’s division will oversee the training happening at UT on Monday.
For those unable to attend Monday’s event, there will be another on Oct. 14.
UTPD also allows groups to schedule private training if they prefer. The department also hosts trainings on simple ways to address personal safety, alcohol laws and impairment, and preventing theft.
All UT freshmen are also required to attend a safety presentation during orientation on what steps to take during active shooter events.