The tragic events at Virginia Tech have led to a nationwide conversation in higher education as to how to better protect students, faculty, staff, and guests of universities and colleges. Because of this unprecedented occurrence, the open environment and academic freedoms historically enjoyed on campuses must be now considered in an entirely different context.
The findings of the presidentially appointed Emergency Response Task Force (ERTF) are contained in this final report. It is worthy of note that Missouri State University currently has in place a comprehensive Emergency Response Plan. As directed in the charge to the ERTF, the Emergency Response Plan served as a starting point for discussions and recommendations to augment this existing plan.
A basic principle which guided the Task Force throughout its deliberations is the safety and security of the student population. The Task Force urges that, in considering its recommendations, a priority be placed on those locations where students gather. Also, the Task Force notes that many of its recommendations will, of necessity, need to be phased-in over a period of time. Certainly factors such as budget availability, staffing issues, and other resource demands will play a key role in determining an implementation schedule.
This final report takes into consideration specific topic areas which the ERTF concluded will enhance the existing emergency response document. Additionally, associated costs and implementation recommendations are included in the report.
Specifically the topic areas discussed are:
The recommendation is to provide a layered approach utilizing existing resources and enhancing emergency communication efforts utilizing newer technologies such as host-based text messaging services, mass notification software platforms, hot-line telephones in classrooms and labs, and primary office panic button notification equipment. The total budget for enhancements is approximately $600,000.
This subcommittee concluded that there should be an increased number of non-commissioned Public Safety Officers providing higher visibility in University buildings. It is also recommended that the existing building coordinator system be reviewed and modified to provide better training and collaboration with the Department of Safety and Transportation. A very important notation and recommendation was ensuring that all offices, classrooms, and laboratories be fitted with thumb-locking mechanisms. It is also recommended that at least two exterior key-card access doors be installed on selected buildings. In addition, as the number of security cameras increases, it will be necessary to expand the Radio Communications Center. The initial budget for enhancements is approximately $827,000, with an additional $780,000 in phased-in costs through 2010.
After much discussion, deliberation, and input, the subcommittee provided a three-level strategic plan. Each level is responsive to differing active shooter type scenarios with Level III involving no immediate contact with the active shooter, Level II where the active shooter is nearby, i.e., next room or down the hall, and Level I at the point of contact with an active shooter. The recommendation of the subcommittee is to provide training and regularly schedule “active shooter” drills. The total budget enhancements are unknown at this point.
Relationships with Law Enforcement and First Responders & Training for Campus Public Safety Officers
In addition to the Public Safety Officers referenced earlier in this summary, this subcommittee recommends that the existing contract between the university and the Springfield Police Department (SPD) be increased to allow for additional commissioned officers on campus. In all probability, this recommendation would need to be phased-in over a period of several years. It is also recommended that the University develop a first responder program comprised of faculty and staff volunteers who would be trained as a first line of defense in a hostile intruder scenario. Participation in such a program would be strictly voluntary and recognize the appropriate role of faculty. Special attention is invited to appendix E for the discussion regarding key administrator training referred to as the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Finally, it is recommended that a “lead-tracking system/record management system” be procured and implemented. This system would manage and track incidences and activities as well as assist with crime analysis. See more about these items.