Police chief says campus safety to undergo change

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Police chief says campus safety to undergo change

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By: BETH OBERLEITER
Staff Writer
Posted: 4/19/07

When the identity of gunman Cho Seung-Hui was released yesterday, an integral part of the Virginia Tech shootings investigation fell into place.

Immediately, his image was plastered over media outlets across the country, and experts and acquaintances analyzed his psyche, looking to explain his actions.

But the time gap between the two shooting incidents continues to raise questions about why students had little warning about the impending danger.

Pitt Police Chief Tim Delaney said that notifying students of an emergency can become a complex situation that involves careful thought and planning. He said each situation is case-specific and should be handled within context.

"You have to be flexible in your planning. Things that may apply in another campus may not apply here," he said.

Delaney said Pitt students would be notified by a mass e-mail if there were an emergency involving the University. Through this, they would hope to reach students who could access their e-mail from cell phones, as well as professors and administrators who would filter the information down.

Pitt sophomore Suzie Culhane didn't find out about the shootings at Virginia Tech until Monday evening and was shocked that the campus didn't shut down after the first shooting.

Even though she said that she felt safe in class on Tuesday, she thought a lot about how random and senseless the act was.

"You can't ever be completely safe," she said. "That's how the world is today. You just have to deal with it."

Delaney said he would use the annunciator on the fire alarm system to alert students to stay in a safe and secure location if there was a violent act on campus and the suspect had not been found.

"I'm constantly thinking about the worst-case scenario," Delaney said, adding that he is constantly thinking up new solutions for evolving situations.

Pitt has 300 cameras functioning throughout the University as well as electronic locks on 80 percent of campus buildings. The buildings can be electronically secured from the communications room with as little as the click of a mouse.

The electronic locks allow for people to exit the building in compliance with fire codes.

Every Pitt Police officer is also trained in "rapid deployment for active shooters," which is practiced in case they need to infiltrate a building. The Pitt police are part of the emergency response unit in Pittsburgh, and they work directly with the city's response team.

The Department also has the ability to block traffic from Forbes and Fifth avenues using 15 traffic control points. This method was installed after the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

In this case, only emergency vehicles traveling to and from the hospitals would be allowed on the roads.

The situation would be monitored by a "unified command post," Delaney said, which would be made of the administrative heads of each University department. This group would make informed decisions based on the development of the crisis.

Although he said Pitt's campus safety is very progressive, Delaney will have a staff meeting with his supervisors this week, where they will discuss hypothetical emergency situations and solutions.

He predicts campuses will probably make revisions to their safety plans to recognize warning signs that a student may be mentally or emotionally disturbed.

Social and academic issues can pressure students into irrational thinking, and he said the Pitt police meet habitually with the housing department and residence life to discuss potential problems in students.

Even people who were not directly affected by the incident are feeling the weight of its effect.

"It's saturating people," Delaney said, "and they're starting to become affected by it emotionally."

Pitt freshman Kelly McCabe can relate to this feeling, and she said that she was in shock when she found out about the shootings on Monday afternoon.

"That could happen anywhere. It's scary because you think you're safe," she said.

Originally from a more rural area, McCabe said that it was hard to shake the "small-town feel" of thinking this these types of situations won't affect her.

The shooting forced her to realize that anyone could become a victim. She now has more appreciation for the everyday safety procedures she encounters, such as signing in guests at her dormitory.

"I definitely think I have to be more aware and more cautious," she said, but added that she feels safe on campus because she has never had any problems.

Culhane said that, in her opinion, campus is safe from preventable disasters, but she has a harder time grasping the reason behind the Virginia Tech shootings.

"Something like this just makes you think, because there's not really an explanation," she said.

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Original Source:<a href=http://media.www.pittnews.com/media/storage/paper879/news/2007/04/19/News/Police.Chief.Says.Campus.Safety.To.Undergo.Change-2851048.shtml>The Pitt News - April 19, 2007</a>

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BETH OBERLEITER

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The Pitt News

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2007-08-19

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Sara Hood

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Annie Tubbs <annietubbs@gmail.com>

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eng

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BETH OBERLEITER, "Police chief says campus safety to undergo change," in The April 16 Archive, Item #1134, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/1134 (accessed September 23, 2014).