A consortium of Boston-area colleges and universities – institutions known for being innovative – recently completed a project aimed at keeping other campuses from “reinventing the wheel.”
In fall 2017, the 17 schools of the Boston Consortium for Higher Education (http://www.boston-consortium.org) announced the availability of an unbranded active shooter training video aimed specifically at institutions of higher learning. Available free on request, the video allows colleges and universities to add their own branding and message to the opening and closing frames, with the caveat that the Boston Consortium and Yale University, which developed the original script, receive acknowledgement in the credits. Since announcement of the video’s release in mid-October, 76 additional schools have requested copies, a number that impresses Consortium Director of Program and Administration June Kevorkian.
“We thought that only small colleges would be interested, but we’ve received requests from institutions of all sizes and from all across the country,” she says. “I’m pleased at the number of schools and how enthusiastic they are about it.”
Those 76 schools are in addition to the Consortium members, all of whom are posting it on their websites, using it in classroom instruction, offering it in small-group training and more: “When you think about the fact that 17 different schools with different needs and ideas and thoughts worked together on this video, I believe that they deserve a lot of credit for being able to collaborate and compromise so well, ending up with a product of which they are proud and that others around the country see as a really great asset,” she adds.
The video runs less than eight minutes in length and uses many of the principles being taught around the country to address an active shooter situation as its basis. Activity takes place in campus settings including a library, classrooms, labs and residence halls; filming takes place from a first-person perspective; and the video includes a diverse student population, including a student with disabilities. Members of the team did watch a number of videos produced by other universities to get a feel for what they wanted to include.
“We looked at all the videos we could find that related to colleges and universities and tried to determine the common threads, and what we liked and didn’t like. Then we tried to pull the best sequencing and messaging out of those,” says Eileen O’Donnell, emergency management planner at Boston College. “Ohio State has an excellent one, as does Yale University.”
Stephen Morash, emergency management director at Boston University, adds: “The first video we screened was “Run Hide Fight” from the city of Houston and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. A lot of us thought it was a good training tool, but we did get some feedback that it was a little too violent and then of course, it’s in an office setting and we wanted an academic setting. We started screening other videos and we really liked the Yale video a lot.”
In fact, the team liked the Yale video so much the Consortium asked for permission to base their script on it. Emerson Productions, the creative team from Emerson College, hired the actors and provided the production process needed to make the video a reality, and all of the Consortium members contributed funding in addition to using grant funding from the Davis Educational Foundation.
“Producing a commercial-quality video takes an enormous amount of resources. We all had the same need and we all wanted to educate our campuses on this issue,” says John Tommaney, director of emergency management at Boston College. “We realized that we are some of the bigger schools in the Boston area and that the smaller ones have the same needs. That’s why we set out to create a video that can be used by any institution.”
“We’d all seen that other schools had created custom videos and it was a project that each of us wanted to do. We realized that for any one of us to do a project like this independently was quite a challenge, and that we could work on it together and create one video that we all could use,” says Geoffrey Bartlett, director of emergency management at Tufts University.
David Barber, senior emergency management specialist at MIT, adds: “This particular group of emergency managers had been working together successfully on various projects for several years. Because of those ongoing relationships, we were able to talk this over and realize it was something we could do better as a group.”
And while members of the team gave partial credit for the video’s success to their recognition of a common need and the strength of their cooperative relationships, they also credited Kevorkian and the Consortium for keeping the project on point, on track and on schedule and ensuring that “we delivered the product we wanted to deliver.”