What can we do to be prepared for an active shooter?

Date: March 2018


Hi, Deans,

I would like to remain anonymous because I don’t want to appear paranoid before my colleagues. I am a first year graduate student and as such I spend most of my time in the lab or in my adjacent office. Since the recent shooting at the high school in Florida, I have become acutely aware that neither the door to my lab nor my office can be locked from the inside. Furthermore, all of my building is left unlocked around the clock.

Given the history of repeated school shootings that I have grown up with, I am not comfortable studying in an atmosphere that seems to be ill prepared for an active shooter incident. Tighter security is necessary for the safety of the campus, specifically a remote warning system which seems to be absent from my lab and office, as well as locking mechanisms on the interior of work spaces and classrooms.

Though I pray it never happens, in the event of an active shooter, I am sure a university with a reputation as esteemed as Cornell would like to say that it did all it could to protect its students.

Thank you,

Concerned About Campus Security


Dear Concerned About Campus Security,

Thank you for your thoughtful and timely question. The issue you raise is on many people’s minds after the recent tragedies, which unfortunately are not isolated incidents. 

I consulted with Cornell’s emergency management office and they recommended several actions you can take toward better access to warning systems and security measures:

  • Sign up to receive CornellALERT text or voice messages on your cell phone (ALERT messages are automatically sent to every cornell.edu email addresses). CornellALERT messages are emergency notifications sent to the Cornell community any time there is an imminent threat to the safety of the campus community (e.g., active threat of violence, severe weather).
  • Be familiar with the Emergency Action Guide on emergency.cornell.edu, which includes guidance on how to respond to an active shooter incident, as well as other emergency incidents you might encounter on campus.
  • Take advantage of Cornell University Police’s public education campaigns (e.g., Active Shooter Awareness, Personal Security) – Contact CUP Crime Prevention Officers at crime_prevention@cornell.edu. You might talk with your lab group director or your faculty Director of Graduate Studies to inquire whether they could help organize and invite CU Police to come to your setting and provide this training on site.
  • Speak with the Crime Prevention Officers about concerns regarding personal safety and building security. They are the appropriate resource to evaluate and make recommendations. You can reach them at the email address above. Again, discussing your concerns with your lab director or your Director of Graduate Studies may encourage them to invite CU Police Crime Prevention Officers in to talk about personal safety and to examine the physical setting and make recommendations.

Your question to Ask a Dean, and this guidance from Cornell’s emergency management office, prompts me to take action as well. I will send encouragement and contact information to all Graduate Field Assistants and faculty Directors of Graduate Studies reminding them of these resources available and encouraging them to consider inviting CU Police Crime Prevention Officers to their locations to talk with graduate students and others about preparing for emergencies such as these.

Thank you again for your very thoughtful question.

Warm regards,


Barbara A. Knuth
Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School