Report: U.S. College Campuses Safer Because Of Information Shared By Virginia Tech

The response to the Feb. 14, 2008, shooting of 23 people by a former graduate student in a lecture hall on Northern Illinois University's campus in DeKalb, Ill., is examined in a 48-page report issued Tuesday by the U.S. Fire Administration. The report discusses actions taken by city and university police, EMTs and fire department units, and hospital personnel.

The report also discusses close parallels between the NIU and Virginia Tech shooters, but it focuses on the NIU response and why it was handled so well. Virginia Tech's after action analysis and report "was mentioned by nearly every office or department in their debriefings and conversations as having been a critical source of information for all involved in public safety, emergency medicine, emergency management, and recovery at the university and the related first responder organizations," the report states.

The NIU shootings began at 3:03 p.m. that day and were initially reported four minutes later to dispatch by a campus fire shift commander who saw students running from the lecture hall and yelling about a shooting inside. The shooter was dead on the stage, having shot himself, by the time NIU officers arrived less than a minute later. DeKalb Fire Department units were dispatched at 3:07, a fire/EMS command post was established at 3:08. All off-duty fire personnel were called to duty at 3:10. From 3:15 p.m., the time the lecture hall was declared secure and responders could enter the building, it took fire/EMS only 11 minutes to begin transporting 18 wounded students to hospitals, and the final patient arrived at a hospital at 4:54 p.m. DeKalb Fire had gone to five alarms at 3:28. In all, six people died, including the shooter.

Chapter 6 of the report discusses a dozen findings and lessons from the event. These include shared planning and training, campus police officers who had received emergency medical training, fire staging rather than having units report to various sites where the victims had dispersed, Kishwaukee Hospital's effective emergency plan, assistance to victims' families, support services by the university and DeKalb Fire to debrief and counsel the responders, and thorough, shared debriefings and post-incident critiques.

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