UI police violence-survival training catches on


Tom Jorgensen/University of iowa

FILE – The University of Iowa campus looking west from Old Capitol and the Pentacrest.

Tom Ackerman, [email protected]

The University of Iowa is taking steps to reduce threats posed by firearms, and the training is catching on.

The UI police have trained more than 6,000 students, faculty, staff, and hospital employees during the last five years on appropriate measures in the event of a shooting.

The course, called Violent Incident Survival Training, was started in 2010 by the police, and it encourages an educated and aware public on effective responses to violent incidents, police officials said.

“The people who were involved with this, they had no idea what they were supposed to do and they kept waiting and waiting for police to get there to help them,” said UI police Lt. Joe Lang, the founder of the course, about the people who were put in scenarios when developing the training.

The classes have begun this year and will be open for the coming months with no charge to the UI community.

Having been inspired by Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, and Evaluate — a national program — the course got its start with hopes to prevent serious danger.

Lang said a priority was placed on teaching about fight, flight, and freeze responses, which are experienced by those facing traumatic situations.

“We were seeing so many people doing nothing and they were the ones becoming statistics,” Lang said. “At least if you fought, you stood part of a chance on surviving or getting out of the situation.”

The current hour-and-a half-hour course offers participants education on how to get out of a dangerous situation and also how to work as a team with those around you to better the safety of the group.

“Even if I throw my keys, that may give me the two seconds I need to make an escape,” said Ryan Foulkes, an assistant nursing manager at UI Hospitals and Clinics. Nursing assistants, paramedics, and nurses in the emergency-response wing took the class in 2013.

“We have patients to think about and their families,” he said. “It’s not just my own personal safety, it’s my coworkers, my patients, and my patients’ families.”

“I feel that living in Iowa and in the Midwest, we’re a little naïve about violence or what could potentially happen,” he said, referencing the Nov. 1, 1991, shooting on campus.

During that incident, Gang Lu, then a UI graduate student, killed five people in Van Allen and Jessup Hall. Lu severely wounded one other person before committing suicide.

The UIHC also requires its employees to take an annual active-shooter course, which educates people on what to do in an emergency. The Violent Incident Survival Training program is specifically helpful to those in the ER, where a potential threat can be great.

In addition, there is a code-green initiative, Foulkes said, that has a number of employees ready to swarm an attacker if needed, as large numbers may intimidate or throw off an attacker.

Police officials also said the program helps people think more proactively about their safety in life, not only in a potentially dangerous situation.

Dave Visin, the UI interim assistant vice president for Public Safety, said he hopes the training is never needed, but it contains important information.

“We were trying to adapt [the national program] to a higher-education environment at the University of Iowa,” he said. “Where can I go if something happens?”

Visin said being aware of one’s surroundings is beneficial.

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