By Alexandra Holyk
Since October, Ryerson has been offering free emergency training sessions aimed at teaching students, faculty and staff the skills needed in the event of an active attacker on campus.
“You know that the situation can happen anywhere, [and] we think the probability of this happening on our campus is very low—but that doesn’t mean we have to ignore the possibility,” said Ryerson president Mohamed Lachemi.
In an interview, Lachemi said that “Get Out. Hide. Fight.” is a campaign that comes with a package of training resources, materials and workshops.
The university’s Community Safety and Security’s “Active Attacker” webpage also includes a nearly nine-minute video featuring a fictional scenario of a shooter on campus.
In the video, the attacker roams around a school campus with an assault rifle aimed to harm students. Several students are “shot” while others hide in classrooms and lecture halls or escape outside. When the shooter enters a lecture hall full of students, the students physically take down the attacker and disarm their weapon.
One student, Nicolas Pienczak, initially refused to watch the video because of its sensitive content and the realism of the situation.
Pienczak, a first-year radio and television arts student, later said that the video could have been more engaging and realistic.
“It wasted seven minutes of my fucking time,” Pienczak said.
“The video does use a dramatization to reinforce the key messages and we understand that people will react and feel a wide range of feelings and emotions on this difficult topic,” said Tanya Poppleton, Ryerson’s director of community outreach.
Poppleton alternatively suggested that students who do not want to watch the video read its transcript on the Get Out. Hide. Fight. webpage.
In an interview with The Eye, Douglas Cole, the producer of the video, said that the original production was much more life-like but it was later changed to prevent controversy.
“The fear was there to grab that audience and I feel that we’ve done that to a degree, not to the degree that it would stop people from viewing it,” Cole said, adding that the message behind the video “isn’t something just to laugh off.”
Psychology professor Alasdair Goodwill said that although the video may cause distress amongst students—especially if they have been in a situation similar to the video simulation—the initiative communicates a crucial message to students, faculty and staff.
“The alternative of doing nothing to inform or ready community members (i.e., training) would be completely irresponsible, careless and categorically negligent,” Goodwill said in an email. “The necessity to keep our community as safe as possible means we have to do all we can to give all individuals the necessary tools to be safe.”
Poppleton also added that Ryerson’s Community Safety and Security department members will facilitate the training at Ryerson.
“Get Out. Hide. Fight.” will be taught at different levels and is available to Ryerson students, faculty and staff—and the community abroad.
According to the “Get Out. Hide. Fight.” registration webpage, level one sessions provide a review of the option-based responses used in an attack: get out, hide and fight. Level two sessions include scenario-based activities where individuals apply the strategies learned in the first session.
First-year journalism student Sara Belas said that the initiative is very important because it teaches students a more advanced version of the traditional lockdowns she experienced before entering university.
“I think as a first-year, it feels weird being instructed to run, hide, and potentially fight, since in elementary/middle/high school they all just tell you to hide in your classrooms and they even do drills,” Belas said in a Facebook post. “It takes time adjusting to being told to decide [for] yourself what the safest option for you to do is,” she added.
Ryerson community members can register on the “Get Out. Hide. Fight webpage” for level one training sessions being offered in November and December. Level two sessions take place once a semester and the next session will be offered in February 2020.