Final Week: BU to review policies for campus security

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Final Week: BU to review policies for campus security

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<b>Emergency notification system a main goal</b>

By: Lisa Davis
Posted: 5/2/07

After Boston University felt the impact of several tragedies that brought into question the level of campus safety, officials say they will continue to review their safety policies and procedures, including ways to better reach the community in case of an emergency.

"These events are starting to highlight, not only on our campus, but on other campuses, this issue of personal safety and risky behavior in a broader context than people have thought about it before," said President Robert Brown in an April 27 interview.

Methods the BU Police Department uses to communicate emergency information to the community are important, said BUPD Chief Thomas Robbins, who added his department often reviews its procedures when a problem arises.

"How you communicate in different emergencies is different," Brown said. "There is not one size that fits all."

Robbins, who attended a Coffee and Conversation with the dean of students after the April 16 Virginia Tech shootings, said BUPD plans to add safety information for students to its website, similar to how BU launched a fire-safety website after the two deadly fires that killed three students Feb. 24 and March 16.

The day after the Virginia Tech shootings, in which senior Cho Seung-Hui killed 32 people before killing himself, BU formed a committee headed by Administration Vice President Peter Fiedler to review emergency and communication policies, Brown said.

"One of the things we put on the table was a blast communication system, which we do not have," he said. "People think that you can send 20,000 emails instantly. The fact is: It takes about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the technology you&#39;re using and how you do it."

In a town hall meeting last week, Robbins said he is considering the use of email and text messaging to contact the community in an emergency.

It is currently impossible to reach every community member at once because the BU registry does not require telephone numbers and email addresses, Brown said, adding the committee is considering a change to his policy changing this policy.

"The reasons you would like an emergency communication system are varied, and I don&#39;t think I would couple it just directly with the Virginia Tech shooter incident," he said.

After the two off-campus fires, inspectors visited residence halls and reviewed their fire-alarm procedures.

Brown said although it is important for BUPD to treat BU as a community, police must be trained to "deal with violent or disruptive acts that you&#39;d find in any urban environment."

"I think the most important thing for us, which I&#39;ve said many times, is that we have a truly professionally trained police force," Brown said.

BUPD trains with the Boston Police Department, and BUPD officers are official Boston police officers, Robbins said.

"One of the things we train on is how to deal with Columbine or Virginia Tech [incidents]," Robbins said. "I&#39;m comfortable of our response we have."

BUPD works toward having its policies and standards match those of police and fire departments across the country through state and national accreditation, said BUPD spokesman Sgt. Jack St. Hilaire.

"We&#39;ve always had a good relationship [with BU], and nothing has happened to change that," said BFD spokesman Steve MacDonald. "We&#39;re responsive when they bring things to our attention."

Boston Emergency Medical Response Chief Richard Serino said EMS has regular exercises in which Boston officials meet to discuss their responses to certain issues and to become familiar with each other. EMS held a meeting last week to address the best ways to respond to shootings, Serino said.

"I think that most colleges in Boston have well-trained, well-equipped public safety staff," Serino said. "We are on a lot of college campuses on a regular basis."

MacDonald said it is easier to deal with fires on campus than in off-campus apartment buildings because BU works closely with BFD.

"Usually, it works smoother from our end, dealing with the colleges and universities, because they have full-time staff who work 24 hours a day," he said.

BUPD, which announced last month it will revamp its methods, for analyzing a revamp in its methods for analyzing "hot spot" crime locations and how the officer force is divided into sections, will respond to any location on the Charles River and Medical campuses in two minutes or less, Robbins said.

"We have authority to stop all traffic, including trains," said Robbins, who served as the Massachusetts State Police superintendent before coming to BU in June 2006.

Although most parents are concerned about their child&#39;s safety, it is difficult for BU to hold students&#39; attention about safety resources, Brown said.

"We will have changes in orientation next summer that are not reactionary," he said, "[but] that are trying to change behavior of students as they come into our community, and to make them aware of risks and choices they make."

The Charles River campus, which is situated along the traffic-heavy Commonwealth Avenue, can be a safety hazard to students who are not responsible pedestrians, Brown said.

"We should not have to instruct people on how to cross the street safely at the age of 18," he said.

There are no plans to change academic curricula to incorporate safety information, Brown said.

"The question is: What is the balance between personal responsibility and the university&#39;s responsibility?" Brown said.

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Original Source:<a href=http://media.www.dailyfreepress.com/media/storage/paper87/news/2007/05/02/News/Final.Week.Bu.To.Review.Policies.For.Campus.Security-2891718.shtml>The Daily Free Press - May 2, 2007</a>

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Lisa Davis

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2007-08-13

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Sara Hood

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Matt Negrin <editor@dailyfreepress.com>

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eng

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Lisa Davis, "Final Week: BU to review policies for campus security," in The April 16 Archive, Item #1025, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/1025 (accessed November 22, 2014).