Patrons flood out of the Garden State Plaza Mall after shots were fired inside the mall shortly before closing time, Nov. 4, 2013. (Photo by Tyson Trish/The Record/AP Photo)

by Jillian Torre

When tragedy struck Columbine High School on Apr. 20, 1999 the nation mourned the loss of 13 innocent bystanders but it never occurred to anyone that something of this magnitude could happen to them.

Now, almost 15 years since the massacre occurred, society has become accustomed to hearing about shootings like this in the news. Since the semester began there have been more than five active shooter incidents and even more that don’t make it to national news.

According to ABC News and Texas State University Criminal Justice Professor Pete Blair, an active shooter incident is defined as a situation “in which someone goes somewhere with the intent or potential of committing mass murder, even if they don’t kill anyone.”

Before 2008 there was an average of seven active shooter incidents a year, but in 2010 that numbers jumped to 21, according to Blair.

What’s causing this increase?

Many, including sophomore Olivia Proulx, believe this is because of the notoriety and media attention shooters receive.

“People are seeing others do it and they are becoming infamous,” said Proulx.

Freshman Clare O’Keefe said she is scared of the frequency of these incidents.

“We have to change what we’ve been doing for years because of violence,” she said.

Colleges across the nation have re-evaluated their emergency plans and security procedures to be prepared for the chance of an unfortunate occurrence. Mount Saint Mary College Assistant Director of Security and Safety Patrick Arnold said the challenge is adding these “layers of security without disrupting day to day life.”

According to Arnold, the college’s staff participated in active shooter training that covered clues to look for with people and an emergency plan in the event of an active shooter on campus. Resident assistants were also given a flyer with tips for an active shooter response.

Arnold said security is hoping to host a training program for students in the spring.

While there’s no way to completely prevent a shooting Arnold advised students to be aware of their surroundings; not only on campus but everywhere. Always be conscious of people and make notice of the closest exits available to you.

“This could happen anywhere,” said Arnold. “I think what really gets us is active shooter incidents where there’s not a clear motive.”

Perhaps the most important aspect of being prepared for students is “if you see something say something.”

This is easier said than done. No one wants to be the worrywart or tattletale, but Arnold advised the Mount community to notify security of any and all events, no matter how minor. It is better to be safe than sorry when people’s lives could be in danger.

While being prepared is important Proulx believes instinct will take over in the case of an emergency.

“When there’s an emergency people panic whether you’re prepared or not,” she said.

Sophomore Kelsey O’Brien feels differently about being prepared. “As a future teacher it’s more on my mind. It makes me want to make sure that if need be I could handle the situation,” she said.