RRC’s Active Shooter Response signs brought back trauma for one student who witnessed a shooting

By Becca Myskiw

Active Shooter signs are placed around RRC campuses. /SARAH VANDALE

Active Shooter Response signs are up around Red River College campuses following the winter break.

The signs come as an update to the college’s general safety information, said RRC’s Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Nicki Albus. 

“One of the reasons [we put the signs up] is that in a lot of the schools in Manitoba, particularly in Winnipeg, they’re already using a version of this,” she said.

The signs advise three things to do in the event of a school shooting. The first is getting out of the building. The signs say to leave all belongings, run until you’re safe, then call 911 and RRC Security.

The second suggestion, if the first is not an option, is to hide. The signs say to be quiet, turn the lights off and block entrances and lock the doors while staying out of the shooter’s view.

The third suggestion is to fight. The signs say to immobilize the fighter using improvised weapons or throw objects and “fight like your life depends on it.”

“The ‘get out, hide, fight’ is based on natural reactions like fight or flight response,” said Albus. “Essentially what you feel is the best decision for you at the time is what you will do. It’s your choice on which one you want to take.”

Albus said the signs were the next step in RRC’s Active Shooter Response information process. The information was first put online with videos describing what to do in the event of a school shooter, followed by an FAQ section and brochures.

The next step, Albus said, is making the information part of the general safety information given at program orientations. The College is still finding the best way to do that without triggering students who’ve been through incidents the Active Shooter Response signs reference.

Creative Communications student Sarah Jane Martin said she witnessed a double shooting over winter break and seeing the signs is a huge trigger for her.

“I come back to school and see posters on every floor, reminding me of the situation and how I didn’t react how I was supposed to,” said Martin.

Sarah Jane Martin witnessed a double shooting in Osborne Village over the winter break and said the active shooter signs around RRC are triggering for her. /BECCA MYSKIW

Martin said when she witnessed the shooting, she froze as everyone around her screamed and ran. The signs, she said, made her feel guilty and angry at herself all over again.

“I know I shouldn’t hold that against me,” she said. “Because everyone talks about fight or flight, but not the third trauma response which is freeze.”

Martin said she had an anxiety attack during her Digital Media Design class on the first week back when a light exploded in the projector and sounded to her like a gunshot.

She said she tried to internalize it at the time so not to make a scene, but as the day progressed, she got more anxious and ended up crying for her full 45-minute walk home.

Martin said she thinks the signs are doing more harm than good for her and she wonders about other students in the same situation.