Preparedness & Recovery

Campus Safety Day Teaches How to Face Emergencies

The Department of Public Safety practices community policing, which it defined as working with the community to be proactive in preventing crime.

by Grant D. Crawford, Tahlequah Daily Press, Okla. / April 4, 2018

(TNS) — Hundreds of faculty, staff and students at Northeastern State University must coexist in ways that help them avoid acts of violence or threats to campus life. But just in case, the institution has infrastructure in place to deal with most any emergency that arises.

The NSU Campus Police, Department of Public Safety and the Division of Student Affairs hosted Campus Safety Day to display the services available to them, as well as advice on how to react during dangerous situations.

"I kept getting all of these emails from people that didn't realize we had an emergency manager, or they didn't realize we had a BIT [Behavioral Intervention Team]," said Patti Buhl, director of public safety. "It just sort of culminated and I figured we could just do a general safety day and talk about all of our services, what we do and how we collaborate together."

During the safety day, guests listened to speakers talk about active shooter scenarios, NSU building coordinators, NSU's emergency alert system, and behavior protocols. Buhl said the various departments on campus have tight-knit relationships with one another, working in conjunction to make NSU as safe as possible.

The Department of Public Safety practices community policing, which Buhl defined as working with the community to be proactive in preventing crime.

"Our focus here is on crime prevention and education," she said. "In other words, we try to be proactive in what we do. We try to train so that people recognize things and maybe prevent something, instead of being reactive. We also like to educate our communities in any way we know how."

The NSU Police, which monitors the campus, is staffed with Oklahoma certified police officers. Officers are always on duty, and they can be reached through the 24-hour dispatch. Officers are constantly patrolling the campus, by foot, bike or vehicle.

One class the campus police offers is RAD, Rape Aggression Defense, to provide realistic, self-defense options to women, regardless of their level of physical conditioning. Students can also receive one hour in PE credit if they take a RAD class.

Another training program NSU Police has held for its instructors is ALICE: alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate. NSU Police Capt. James Bell gave participants a rundown of ALICE training during his safety day presentation, and he said the first thing people should do is be alert, or mentally prepared for anything.

In an active shooter situation, people often dismiss loud banging noises as firework displays — a connection Bell said people should stop making.

"Has anyone heard fireworks on campus lately?" asked Bell. "No, we don't do that. So if you don't have it in your mind that something bad can happen here, your mind won't even let you consider it."

Bell said the best place to be in the event of an active shooter is downtown, or anywhere far away from campus. However, if an individual can't escape, the next move is lockdown. There are several ways to lock down a room, which include using a belt or a purse strap to hold down a door handle.

The next step in an active shooter incident is to inform others of what's going on. Ongoing, real-time information can help save lives, and law enforcement should be contacted with any information as to where the shooter might be in a particular building. Those who are escaping should also inform fellow employees, students or anyone else who might be seeking safety.

"Countering" the shooter can also make time for people to escape and lead to fewer deaths. To counter a shooter does not mean to fight him, but to create noise, movement, distance and distraction. Bell said those who are caught face-to-face with the shooter should not be compliant, because creating a hectic environment can slow down the shooter.

"Could you make this person any more angry?" asked Bell. "They're there to kill everybody. You're not going to make them any more angry, so do whatever you can do."

Evacuation is always the best option. Bell said that even during a lockdown, if there's a clear way to escape, everyone should take it. He also said once potential victims are clear of immediate danger, it's best if they didn't drive away, as law enforcement agencies are likely hurrying to the scene, and the less traffic, the better.

Sheila Self, assistance vice president of student affairs, spoke about behavioral concern protocols, teaching people what to look for and how to report behaviors they're worried about. Examples of behaviors to report include disruptive classroom or workplace behavior, threats of harm to self or others, potentially threatening posts on Facebook, possession or suspected possession of weapons, and homelessness or lack of necessities.

People can reports concerns to Student Affairs or university police, and the Behavioral Intervention Team can either provide support or an intervention to individuals. Student Affairs also offers Student Counseling Services, which is free and confidential.

"The one referral we get more than anything else is in regard to depression," said Self. "We get a lot of that — isolation, depression, hopelessness, suicidal statements or suicidal ideation — and we will reach out to those people. We're going to make sure that person is taken care of and academically they have plans to move forward. Oftentimes, we don't know until you tell us."

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©2018 the Tahlequah Daily Press (Tahlequah, Okla.)

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