Steve Blaustein said he received a “cryptic” text message from his daughter Gabrielle Blaustein on Sept. 3 that said she was evacuating her apartment at The View at Montgomery.
A 911 call made from a possible burner phone had falsely reported an active shooter situation in The View, an off-campus housing complex on Montgomery Avenue near 12th Street.
“There were policemen in the stairway and they were yelling and asking us if we heard gunshots,” said Crystal Teoh, a sophomore international business major who lives on the 13th floor of The View.
“It was a security guy who worked at the front desk…said that there was an active shooter,” said Nichola Cappelli, a junior nursing major who lives on the third floor. “That was kind of all you have heard about it. [It was] of course, very scary because I figured it wasn’t a drill since we never had to do this last year. It was a very high-intensity situation.”
Philadelphia Police responded to the 911 call, and Temple Police quickly saw it on its own dispatcher, said Charlie Leone, the executive director of Campus Safety Services. Both units were soon on the scene, ushering students out of the lobby of the building and sweeping the stairwells and halls with guns drawn, searching for an active assailant.
Leone said that in Temple Police’s “after-action” meetings with The View, it was found that a member of The View’s security staff pulled the fire alarm — which, if an active assailant was present, could have put more residents in danger as more attempted to leave.
While police attempted to clear levels of the building, residents of The View began streaming into hallways to evacuate. Some students who live on the third, fourth, ninth, 13th and 14th floors said there was an automated announcement to their rooms instructing them to exit the building.
Director of Emergency Management Sarah Powell said that pulling the alarm is not the correct way to handle an active assailant situation in a building. The View has a private security company, SOS Security, that employs personnel at the building.
Security officers at The View had not been previously trained on active assailant situations, Powell said.
“The last thing you want to do is pull the fire alarm,” Powell said.
During the Parkland, Florida shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, the shooter’s gunfire set off the fire alarm, which led confused students and faculty out of classrooms and into hallways, into the assailant’s path. Seventeen students and faculty were killed during the shooting.
Tom Rice, former general manager of The View and lease up specialist for The View II, the complex being built behind its original on Cecil B. Moore Avenue near 12th Street, told The Temple News that his staff followed the instructions of police. The security officer who pulled the alarm misinterpreted police clearing the lobby, Leone said.
“You don’t want people in the lobby, you want to get them out of the lobby,” Leone said. “[The security officer] may have thought [police meant], ‘Get everybody out of the building.’ That’s what we’re surmising.”
The View II, which like The View at Montgomery is being developed and managed by the Goldenberg Group, will house nearly 1,000 residents in 368 units and is projected to be 12 to 18 stories. The second complex is set to be completed in Summer 2019. Campus Safety Services is working with management at The View II to establish emergency procedures similar to the current protocols at The View, Leone said.
Leone said that Temple Police would have ideally had the hallways clear of students, so officers could make their way through each level and first search for the reported assailant.
“We’d like it better if we’re able to control it more,” Leone said. “People don’t get hurt and we don’t put people at risk. They’re safe where they are. Then when they are leaving, they know that [police are] there to protect them to make sure that they have a safeguard out of the building.”
“What kind of training do you possibly have, that you would literally hand students to an active shooter if one existed?” Blaustein said. “And if one existed, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now.”
“We didn’t understand why we would be evacuated and why we wouldn’t be told to stay where we are,” Cappelli said. “Because honestly, if there really was an active shooter, [we were] a pretty easy target. There were just hundreds of people in the stairwell.”
Now, Temple Police is working with The View to establish an addendum to its emergency procedures that includes training for active shooter situations. Leone said that The View, as a private residential complex unaffiliated with the university, has been “responsive” and “open” to working with Campus Safety Services on updating its policies and procedures.
Maureen Garrity, a spokesperson for the Goldenberg Group, said The View has a specific, written building procedure for active assailant situations.
“We did have some shelter-in-place procedures already established,” Rice said. “We met with the deputies and Temple Police to revisit those and review them to make sure that everyone going forward was on the same page with everything.”
Shelter-in-place procedures require people to stay indoors in the event of an environmental hazard, like a hazardous materials release or weather emergency.
When asked about a specific addendum about active assailant situations, Rice said The View “keeps those internal.” He said The View shares some procedures with its residents in a move-in packet.
Leone said The View has a “plan for various evacuations or non-evacuations,” and that it had worked with Campus Safety Services on protocols during its construction in 2012. He said The View established fire safety and evacuation protocols and secured access to the building.
Be aware and prepared
SOURCE: Department of Homeland Security and Ready Houston
Powell said that it is not typical for residential buildings in the city to have active assailant security protocol established.
“The most important thing to realize about the View is that [the university does not] control that building,” Powell said. “It’s a completely privately owned and managed building in every way. It could be an apartment building in Center City.”
Resident assistants in University Housing and Residential Life buildings are trained on evacuation, shelter-in-place and lockdown procedures, Powell added. Students are encouraged by the university to attend TUready Training, which is held throughout the semester. In the sessions, students are trained on personal emergency preparedness.
The active assailant sessions review the Run, Hide, Fight practice, which the Department of Homeland Security and FBI use as their guidelines for personal practice in an active assailant situation, Powell said. Campus Safety held six active assailant training sessions with Temple Police last semester, Powell said. The university also has emergency preparedness resources on its TUready website.
An individual’s practice depends on each person’s situation, Leone said. The proper practice for a student on the third floor of the building may differ from the 13th. A person may run and exit the building if it is safe to do so, hide and barricade their door to block an assailant from entering or fight the assailant if it is the only option for survival, he said.
Blaustein said that as a parent and a real estate lawyer, he feels the university should put pressure on The View to establish its own specific policies for active assailant situations, given that The View II complex will house nearly 1,000 more residents, most of whom will be Temple students.
“God forbid, there was an active shooter and this happened, could you imagine what that would do to the reputation and the value of a Temple University diploma and what your admissions would look like?” Blaustein said. “They’d be decimated.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include that The View has a building procedure for active assailant situations.