Emergency plans at SAIT
Canadians haven’t seen the same level of violence around our education system, but tragic school shootings still occur. Since 1975, nine separate incidents resulted in 25 deaths in our country. The deadliest, dubbed the “Montreal Massacre,” took place at Montreal Polytechnic School in 1989 where 14 students were killed.
The Montreal Massacre is credited for introducing tougher Canadian gun laws as well as influencing police and campus security tactics to better respond to shooting attacks at schools. When a student went on a shooting spree at Dawson College in Montreal in 2006, many believed the changes implemented after the Montreal Massacre prevented it from being much worse.
The 1999 high school shooting in Taber, Alberta raised awareness further, to the point that “active shooter” emergency response plans are now in place in most high school and post-secondary facilities in Canada.
SAIT security is contracted out to Paladin Security. Site security manager Clark Gay explained that Paladin Security specializes in campus security across Canada and emergency response systems are in place for all situations, including an active shooter.
“Although an active shooter is not a probability, it is a possibility. And it’s one that we are prepared for as SAIT’s security provider,” Gay said. “An evacuation alert and notification through SAITALERT would alert students of a situation like that.”
SAITALERT is a voluntary voice/text notification system to provide on-campus students and staff with immediate information in the event of an emergency. Those that “opt-in” for the service receive a text or voicemail notification of any safety threats or building closures.
Despite programs like SAITALERT, many students don’t feel prepared if there was ever a shooter in the buildings.
Electrical engineering student Kody Robinson said he would likely attempt to vacate the campus as quickly as possible if a shooting were to occur.
“I would leave the area and tell as many people on the way to get out,” he said.
Power engineering student Blayne Banklek went to an Alberta high school that regularly drilled for the event of an attack. Banklek explained that the principal would set off an alarm and make an announcement. The class would then turn off the lights, lock the door and move to the corner of the room.
One day preparation was put into practice as the class was alerted that a student was seen carrying a knife around school. The active shooter plan was initiated and law enforcement was called. RCMP quickly arrived and the student was eventually removed from school grounds.
When asked if he felt prepared, Banklek replied, “I feel like I personally am, but [SAIT] doesn’t put a big effort into it.”
SAIT corporate communications director Dan Allen said it’s something SAIT takes very seriously.
“SAIT has response procedures in place for many different emergency scenarios and circumstances,” Allen said, through email. “In the case of a school shooting, we would activate the incident command system and use various tools at our disposal to effectively communicate to campus.”
SAIT Radio, Television and Broadcast news instructor Alan Beesely said safety was of “paramount importance” and that as an instructor he is mandated to do everything in his power to ensure students are protected from any incident.
Another SAIT instructor who asked not to be named, said he had no training at all when it came to a potential crisis, mentioning that he wasn’t sure if he was supposed to lock the door or ask students to literally run for their lives.
Allen encouraged all students to sign up for SAITALERT to receive emergency notifications. Students can email email@example.com for more information.