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Public safety institutes emergency protocol
The university will revamp its emergency guide in light of the announcement last month that some public safety officers will carry arms, according to administration.
The Emergency Management Team will not change the entire emergency guide, but the updated version will account for the fact that armed public safety officers will be the first responders to an incident on campus, according to Chief of Public Safety David Barger.
“And we’re not just talking about the active shooter,” Barger said. “We’re talking about snowstorms, we’re talking about fires, we’re talking about tornadoes, hurricanes or whatever. We tend to lock in on the [active shooter], but there’s a lot of things that can go wrong.”
Four nearby universities, Manchester Community College, Yale University, University of New Haven and Central Connecticut State University, had armed intruders or suspected armed intruders on campus in 2013.
“It could happen here and we want to make sure that we have every safeguard in place,” Barger said. “We need to step up our game as we become a larger institution and this institution is larger than [last academic year] and there’s more national notice.” Professor of Legal Studies Jill Martin has her emergency guide taped to the wall in her office.
“I hate the fact that the society is such that we have to be thinking about these things,” Martin said. “Anything can happen anywhere, but I don’t think you can live your life in fear. I don’t think everybody should be coming on campus, looking around their shoulder every time.”
In an emergency, Public Safety will tell students what to do, which would differ depending on the situation, through the mobile Rave alert system, according to Barger.
“We want them to do exactly what we tell them to do on that alert,” Barger said. “If it’s evacuate to the Burt Kahn gym, we want them to do that. If it’s shelter-in-place, we want them to shelter-in-place.”
If an armed intruder were on campus, sophomore Maria Mucci would react depending on her location.
“I would try to take cover somewhere,” she said. “If I was near the exit of the campus, I would run out.”
Associate Professor of Political Science Jennifer Sacco said she would take action using resources in her classroom to make her students calm in case of any emergency.
“To keep students calm I guess we would have to just blockade everything with the furniture in the room to the best of our ability,” she said. “That’s easier in some classrooms than in others because in some classrooms the desks are bolted down to the floor.”
Martin and Sacco were both concerned that, in some classrooms, the doors do not lock from the inside. The Emergency Management Team is currently surveying the doors on campus to address this security problem, Barger said.
“There’s certain rooms where I’d feel safer,” Sacco said. “I feel safer in Tator Hall because the walls are cinder block, so if we are hiding in a classroom I’d rather be there than in [College of Arts and Sciences].”
Yet, Sacco said situations where an active shooter comes onto campus are rare overall.
“I’m not that worried about it,” she said. “Given the number of schools that exist in the United States, if we’re talking about high schools and colleges where we see these things happen, they’re rare, so I don’t think we’re at much of a risk for that.”
Junior Justina Paproski said an armed intruder coming onto campus could happen at any time, anywhere.
“I think everyone should be prepared regardless,” she said. “I don’t think you can put a probability number to it.”
If an active shooter were on campus, students should not confront the subject, Barger said.
“It depends on what they’re faced with, whether if it’s with a handgun, a rifle [or] a shotgun,” he said. “The first thing that I would tell them is try to evade the situation as best they could.”
Students should also be good witnesses and tell Public Safety if they see something suspicious, Barger said.
Public Safety takes every perceived threat seriously, Barger said.
“There’s no such thing as overreaction to it,” he said. “You have to follow out that information and do what you need to do to mitigate whatever threat it is, right until the end from point A to point Z. You have to do everything in order to ensure that everyone is going to be safe.”
The Department of Public Safety plans to put information on Blackboard about what the university community should do in these emergency situations, Barger said. The university will also hold meetings for students, faculty and staff to teach them these procedures.
The university is still determining the best way to make sure all students get this information, according to Barger.