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College ready in event of tragedy

The effects of the Montreal Dawson College shooting have remained long after Kimveer Gill stormed into the college with three guns, killing one student and injuring 19 others.

In a study released last month, 30 percent of Dawson students have suffered from some form of psychological trauma related to the shooting. The study also recommended that schools to have a comprehensive plan for dealing with the long-term effects from school tragedies.

Algonquin has an emergency management plan to deal with the fallout of a similar tragedy, but security officials are reluctant to talk about it.

“We won’t release it for the obvious reason that by studying the plan, you can come up with our tactics for the plan,” said Earl Green, supervisor of safety and security services. “So that would not be something that we would release. It’s not for public consumption.”

That level of concern points to the attention security gets, but college officials are quick to point out that counselling services are a large part of the response plan. They will play an important role both after the initial event, and for the long-term as well.

“The initial and the long-term [response], the two are tied together” said Mark MacAulay, manager of counselling and testing services. “It’s a combination between psycho-education and actually working with [the students] if they are triggered by a certain issue.”

Psycho-education is informing those suffering that what they are going through is a normal response MacAulay added. These services are available to all students over the long-term in case they can’t resolve the effects of the situation on their own.

“It is a way to normalize a reaction to an abnormal situation,” MacAulay said.

The response to an event begins immediately, with the deployment of the college’s tragic event response team. This team is made up of faculty, staff, and counsellors and is designed to help students and staff talk through the reactions they are having to the tragedy.

MacAulay said that when most people think of a tragedy at a school, they automatically think of a shooting. But an event that the tragic response team responds to includes a wide variety of different tragic situations.

“It could be something like a car accident; it could be a sudden death.” MacAulay said. “If a student is impacted by it, our thing is to help students.”

Shootings in schools and the workplace have been highlighted by the media all over the world; however the likelihood of a shooting is still small. To ensure the college is ready for such events, a testing of the emergency management plan was done in October of last year. The mock scenario involved a response to a hostage taking on campus.

“Everybody keys off on school shootings,” Earl Green said, “and yet the chances of a school shooting are about one in a million. You’re further ahead to get hit by lighting.”

College ready in event of tragedy

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About Greg Markey

Greg is a social media and digital marketing consultant who loves writing about business, technology, innovation and startups. He holds a degree in political science and history from St. Francis Xavier University, as well as a diploma in Journalism from Algonquin College. He lives in Edmonton with his wife and three kids..

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