New active shooter video will present latest tactics for survival

Program's message: Search for a safe place, alert the authorities, find a place to hide and end the threat

Director James Espy, left, and videographer Mark Stitzer rehearsed a scene for an 'active shooter' training video on July 22 inside the Business Building on Penn State's University Park campus. Credit: Patrick Mansell / Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – A new University-produced training video features an elaborately staged mass shooting but offers real advice on surviving an armed attack.The video will be shown to students, faculty and staff, providing the most up-to-date tactics for surviving what in public safety circles is known as an “active shooter” incident.

Last week, Penn State Public Media, in conjunction with University Police and Public Safety, began filming at the Business Building with a cast of 50 extras mostly comprised of students and employees. In the video, two attackers detonate a bomb outside the building and storm the interior, clutching rifles. Clad in black hats, black shirts and toting black duffle bags, the men begin firing in the Business Building halls leaving multiple bodies on the floor.

The video, to be completed in the fall, promotes lessons learned from law enforcement in the wake of mass shootings that occurred since the release in 2010 of Penn State’s previous active shooter safety video. The new message is delivered through the acronym SAFE, which identifies the steps -- in order -- to follow during a shooting:-- Search for a safe place.-- Alert the authorities.-- Find a place to hide.-- End the threat.“A video like this is crucial for making our campus safer,” said Tyrone Parham, chief of University Police. “It raises awareness for our faculty, staff and students, as well as presents pre-plan options in case of an active shooter.“Presented from a victim or witness perspective, the video depicts several worst-case scenarios, but most importantly it depicts tangible things witnesses can do to help mitigate the impact. The video also helps viewers realize that it can happen here. That’s the reason we wanted to film on our campus and use the campus community in the video.”The makers of the film hope the familiar locale, recognizable faces and overall sense of realism enforce the seriousness of the situation. When outdoor shots were filmed July 22, the remnants of an explosion were created with pieces of coal scattered and pulverized on the sidewalk. Makeup artists created severe burns and other “wounds” for the extras. University officials posted signs and alerted the community through multiple channels to avoid causing alarm. Police and public safety staff from the University also were on hand. Filming continued throughout the week, and the crew gathered additional footage on Tuesday (July 30).

“Our goal is to make those taking the course project themselves into the role of the victim,” said James Espy, the video’s director, “and by doing so hopefully ingraining the SAFE actions and making them more prepared to handle an active shooter situation, increasing their chances for survival.”

The video will be shown as part of a University-wide safety program, according to Rebecca Bywater, Penn State’s threat assessment and community education manager. The University has not finalized how and when the program will be offered, she said.The active shooter video, Bywater said, is one of many University initiatives and programs aimed at keeping the University community safe. Others include emergency phones located throughout campus, a 24-hour security escort service and community education programs addressing issues such as alcohol abuse, bullying, domestic violence and identity theft.

Last Updated August 06, 2020