Ohio State attack: How Georgia colleges prepare for the worst

Predicting and eliminating every possible way an attacker could hurt students and staff may not be realistic. But after Monday’s attack at Ohio State University, officials at Atlanta-area schools say they’re ready if an attack happens.

“In this world as we’ve seen it, sometimes people have their own agenda and you don’t see it coming,” Georgia State University Police Chief Joe Spillane said. “You can only prepare for it.”

The University System of Georgia requires all institutions to have an emergency response plan and update it annually, a requirement all schools are currently in compliance with, system spokesperson Charles Sutlive said.

“The safety and security of our campus communities are our number one priority,” he said.

Those plans include an outline of how students, staff and law enforcement should react to an “active shooter” on campus. The details of those plans are set by each school, but many echo the options Ohio State officials presented to students in the midst of Monday’s attack: Run. Hide. Fight.

Georgia Gwinnett College’s version: Evacuate, hide or barricade, fight.

“As a last resort, and only when your life is in imminent danger, attempt to disrupt and/or incapacitate the active shooter. Act as aggressively as possible against him/her. Throw items and improvise on weapons. Yell and scream. Commit to your actions,” the school’s response tips say.

But someone shooting is just one among many emergencies schools plan for.

Georgia Tech, for example, has detailed plans for everything from the release of radiation or pathogenic microorganisms to wild animals on campus or a “media surge” after an emergency or special event.

The task of being ready for anything can be especially challenging on Atlanta’s intown campuses. There’s the threat of robberies and other crimes, collisions between students or staff and cars or other vehicles, and the other potential risks of city life.

Still, officials at schools in Atlanta and across the state say they’re focused on campus safety.

University system schools plan to add 51 officers across the state this year, an increase of 6 percent.

Schools are cracking down on access to buildings, in some cases installing biometric scanners at entrances or requiring campus visitors to show ID.

Campus police officers train regularly on how to respond to active-shooter and similar attacks.

And school officials say their police departments are ready to team up with other local public safety agencies. All but three university-system schools have mutual aid agreements with local law enforcement. Georgia State and Georgia Tech will conduct a joint training exercise over Christmas break. And Emory University’s police officers have trained with DeKalb County officers and participated in exercises that address an “active threat.”

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