by DANYELLE KHMARA
At 11:30 a.m., on Oct. 12, Pima Community College’s West Campus J and K Buildings were evacuated due to a reported gunman in the vicinity of the school.
A student reported that there was a man with a rifle on West Anklam Road, according to Executive Director/Media, Community, & Government Relations Libby Howell. Administrators notified campus police who notified the Tucson Police Department.
Students were evacuated and streamed onto the sidewalk in front of the J Building. The decision to evacuate was not made by PCC but by municipal police, Howell said.
“One of the officers got over-zealous,” she said. “If we would have felt that the need was appropriate, we would have required people to seek shelter in place.”
Administrators instructed them to move to the farthest parking lot on the J Building’s emergency evacuation assembly area. An Aztec Press reporter who was evacuated witnessed people running slowly and some got into their cars and left campus.
Security checked every room in the evacuated buildings, and they were deemed safe for the students to re-enter just after noon. No one that fit the student’s description was found in the school or on West Anklam Road, Howell said.
PCC student Brenna Franco was in a beginning poetry class in room J101. There was a knock on the door and awoman entered and said the police were evacuating the building.
“People seemed apathetic,” Franco said. “People were rolling their eyes. That was the thing that was surprising to me. Everybody acted like it wasn’t a big deal—it’s common place.”
Franco expressed terror at being evacuated in light of mass shootings in schools, especially since there’s been three in the last week, she said.
Pima has emergency response plans put into place and is implementing more. Over the last year and a half, there have been six emergency evacuation drills on the various campuses. Each building has designated emergency evacuation areas posted at the end of main hallways.
The school has an alert notification system set up to send texts regarding major emergencies. Anyone can sign up by texting the word “alert” to 79516. All PCC students and employees receive the emergency updates automatically to their email accounts.
Panic buttons are installed in more than 90 locations on each campus that were identified as high risk, according to the October 2015 Security and Safety Improvements Progress Report. When pressed, a signal alerts college police dispatch to send a response team to the appropriate area.
Speakers and amplifiers for announcing emergencies are going to be put in throughout the campuses. The installations are complete at the Northwest Campus and will be installed in every campus by the end of 2016.
At a board study session on the afternoon of Oct. 13, administrators talked about ways to strengthen safety at the school.
“Safety and security is everyone’s responsibility,” said Vice Chancellor Bill Ward. “Everybody has to be involved for it to work.”
For additional information on emergency protocol go to pima.edu/administrative-services/college-police/emergencies.html or call the campus operations manager or facilities work control center at 206-2733. After hours, contact College Police at 206-2700.