With recent events, making sure both the SRU campus community and facilities are prepared for an active shooter situation has been at the forefront of discussion on campus.
Paul Novak, SRU’s interim Executive Director, planning & environmental health and safety emergency management administrator, said that the recent school shooting at Stonemason Douglas High School in Parkland, Fl. has affected some of the discussion of safety on campus.
“Clearly it does influence the way any organization looks at its employees and its preparation plans for that,” Novak said. “The calls have been coming in.”
Novak said because of a need expressed form the SRU community, his team is putting on an additional active shooter awareness and survival training.
Working closely with university police, Novak is the university’s safety officer in terms of occupational and environmental safety, and also serves as the emergency management administrator.
“Together we work on emergency preparedness initiatives that cover the campus as a whole,” Novak said.
One of these initiatives is an active shooter safety presentation, which is optional for students, faculty and employees. Novak said that although the number of participants was once small, with 72 participating in 2013-14, over 236 have participated in the training for the 2017-18 year.
Novak said that while the overarching emergency operations plan is not available to the public, the university is still prepared, with university police all certified in active shooter response training.
In addition to the initiatives and meetings with groups, the university will have an emergency preparedness drill on April 19, with the drill being focused on an active shooter situation. The event was also hosted last year, and Novak said feedback from that has altered this year’s plan, with two points coming from the evaluation.
“Students expressed a very strong desire to be more involved in the actual drill itself,” Novak said. “[Those who took the evaluation] also wanted to see more employee and faculty participation.”
This year Novak said there will be student actors and faculty involvement during the drill and that this year it will be set in an actual academic building as opposed to a residence hall. Before it was difficult to set it up in an academic building due to the university not wanting it to disrupt the ongoing operations on campus.
“I get [not wanting to disrupt class], but when something happens like at Ohio State or Virginia Tech, academic operations are going to be impacted. They’re going to stop. So let’s take half a day in a controlled environment proactively to practice before an actual event happens,” Novak said.
Another goal is to make sure more can benefit from the event without being part of the drill itself, with Novak hoping to create an educational opportunity for those in other parts of campus, with professors discussing with students what they would do step-by-step if they were in an emergency situation. Novak said this has been received positively when discussed with professors.
“We’re hopeful that students will get a lot more out of it and the employees as well,” Novak said.
The drill will not just include campus police, with local law enforcement and the fire department taking part. Novak said that he is also looking to include the Red Cross this year, due to the aftermath of the drill being critical in terms of stress management.
Besides the drill, Novak said that another topic discussed amongst the campus community is installing door locks. Novak said the plan for a new access control system for the university has been planned since 2014.
“We’ve been talking about [access control] for many years,” Novak said. “The plans we’re looking to implement through the master plan are not very simple and they will be implemented through phases on a long-term type basis and there’s a fair amount of dollars.”
Regardless of the cost, Novak said it’s clear that the campus community is concerned, so the university will be starting to add manual locks to doors, with the process being finished by fall 2018.
“Events like in Florida say we gotta do something now,” Novak said. “That’s why we’re going to go with the manual locks and installing manual locks on existing classroom doors. By the beginning of fall classes in August all of the manual locks will be in place on the classroom doors.”
Novak said the process of implementing new safety features listed in the master plan is slow due to regulatory agencies but is still important to the university.
“We’re very committed to that [safety] and the SRU administration is very supportive and very concerned and dedicate to providing as safe and as secure campus facilities as possible,” Novak said.