Campus emergency response updated for U

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

The U needs to maintain and update the level of security it has had since the 2002 Winter Olympics, administrators said-and part of these efforts include centralizing emergency response on campus.

The Campus Security Task Force recently released a report of recommendations to U President Michael Young advising students and faculty about what to do in the presence of weapons, how to deal with troubling behavioral issues and feasible ways to notify the entire campus of a crisis.

Task Force Chairman Wayne McCormack presented the report to the Board of Trustees last week.

Young organized the task force in June in response to the shootings at Virginia Tech University last spring and the Utah Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the university’s previous no-gun policy.

Although Young said the U is “not in a bad place to begin with” when it comes to campus security, because of extensive measures implemented during the Olympics, the task force has looked into ways to keep up these measures to make the campus safer.

McCormack said the task force efforts are a “maintenance step” for security.

“We were very far ahead of the game at the time of the Olympics…but now we need to go back and make sure the organization we had is updated and in place,” McCormack said.

In the report, the U recognized legislation made earlier this year allowing concealed weapon permit holders to carry guns on campus except in secure hearing rooms and with students who do not want to have a licensed weapons-carrier as a roommate.

In the presence of a threat, students and faculty are advised to avoid confrontation if possible, stay calm and call university police at 801-585-COPS.

A flyer listing these procedures will be posted in locations throughout campus and online. The bulletins could be printed in Spanish as well as English.

The report also suggested ways to address potentially dangerous or disruptive behavior in students or faculty members to prevent incidences like the Virginia Tech shootings from happening.

The Office of Student Affairs and Human Relations are trying to identify individuals who signal potential for such behaviors and provide them with help. They will establish a threat assessment team to address behavioral issues and work with the University Counseling Center.

A major concern of the task force is to find a practicable way to notify campus in case of an emergency, an issue that also came up this summer when a Utah Department of Corrections officer was shot and killed by an inmate receiving treatment at a medical center in Research Park.

But the answer to the question isn’t so simple, McCormack said.

“No notification can have counter-productive effects,” he said. “You don’t rely on one system.”

Members of the task force are considering using a combination of telephone services, e-mail, text messaging, electronic message boards and the media to get the message out.

The notification would go through three tiers of people-vice presidents and administrators; deans, directors and building supervisors; and students and employees.

The task force considered text messaging everyone, but reconsidered after finding that mass-texting would paralyze the entire Salt Lake Valley phone system for four or five hours.

The next challenge of communication is what message to send, McCormack said, noting that they would need to get information out quickly but accurately.

Some members of the Board of Trustees said the task force should look into media management during crisis events to make sure the information is correctly portrayed and that the media helps-rather than hinders-emergency response.

Now that Young has approved the recommendations, the next step is to assemble a policy group composed of key administrators, operational members, such as facilities and police, and one member of the Board of Trustees. The group will implement and coordinate security policy between organizations on campus.

The task force will also hire a special assistant for emergency management to serve in the policy group, which McCormack expects to start meeting in the next few weeks.

“Our ultimate goal is to save lives,” McCormack said. “We know there will be emergencies and tragedies, but we want to make sure we’ve done everything we can.”

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