Fans attending the Grizzly home games at Washington-Grizzly Stadium for the past few weeks walked past a new feature: bollards—defensive traffic posts—installed to prevent anyone from running a vehicle into the tailgating crowds. 

In addition to bollards, which protect an average of 20,000 tailgaters per game, Grizzly Athletics have also implemented a “clear bags” policy for home games, limiting those entering the stadium to plastic bags and purses no bigger than a clutch. Magnetometers at the stadium entrance also became a new screening measure at the start of the football season. 

The threat of gun violence in K-12 schools and on college campuses has pushed an overhaul in the University’s preparation for the worst.

“It’s unfortunate, sure, but I think people understand that it’s just part of the world we live in these days,” said Lt. Brad Giffin of the University of Montana Police Department.  

More than 400 people were shot across 132 college campuses between 2001 and 2016, according to research from the non-profit Citizens Crime Commission of New York City. Montana hasn’t seen an active shooter on any campus since 1990, when a Montana State University student shot and killed two others in a dorm room. In July 2019, an MSU employee shut down the entire Bozeman campus after making threats to “end it all” and take anyone with him. 

An armed robbery in 2014 locked down UM’s campus and half of Missoula while police tracked down the suspect. 

“What we learned from the lockout was that our response times in locking exterior doors to all buildings needed serious improvement. I think it took police two hours to lock up all of the buildings,” Emnett said.

All the residence halls and most of the newer buildings on campus have exterior door Griz Card locks that can be locked automatically in an emergency. Currently, UM safety policy advises all those on campus outside during a lockout to go to the western entrance of the University Center.

Missoula College faced a similar lockdown in 2018, when law enforcement searched for an armed suspect throughout East Missoula.

Giffin has distributed Stop The Bleed kits, purchased through a surplus in workers’ compensation funds, to roughly one-third of the buildings on campus. His goal is to ensure that all of them will eventually be supplied with kits for handling trauma, he said. Giffin also began to teach every emergency response team assigned to each building how to properly apply the tourniquet and chest seal that comes with each kit. 

“When it comes to planning for campus safety in terms of emergency preparedness, you perform a threat assessment that takes into account the probability and severity of a threat to determine the risk, and plan accordingly,” said the UM Safety Program manager Chuck Emnett.

“Preparing for active shooters gets a lot of emphasis in K-12 and higher-ed institutions, since these incidents have been increasing.” 

For the past four years, Emnett worked to assign an emergency team for each building, and developed classroom emergency procedures for all the major classrooms on campus. They also provided each team with a detailed escape plan for every room in their assigned building. 

Emnett and the recently established Campus Preparedness and Response Group, which includes UMPD and members of UM’s administration, engaged in an active shooter tabletop exercise this last summer. Other exercises conducted to date included a bomb threat scenario, a winter weather event, and even a meningitis B outbreak.

Nothing affects preparedness more, Emnett said, than practicing our responses to a variety of potential emergencies.

Administrators have also begun discussions to update the 17 emergency phones installed throughout campus, and those in the University Villages. The current phones have a push-to-talk system that immediately links to UM police. 

Starting November, according to Emnett, talks will begin with the emergency phone company, Code Blue, to possibly install additional emergency phones with video capability, as well as a loudspeaker system for broadcasting emergencies.

“The loudspeaker system would be ideal. And unlike some campuses threatened by tornadoes or hurricanes, things that we don’t really need to worry about here in Missoula, we don’t have any kind of civil defense broadcast system to alert us,” he said.

According to Giffin, UM hasn’t faced any overt threats similar to the threat made at MSU this July or in the five years that he’s been with UMPD. 

“But it’s where a lot of people meet in large groups, and that makes it a target area. Not being prepared would be irresponsible,” Giffin said.