Campus shootings trigger college emergency plans for students


Campus shootings trigger college emergency plans for students


contributed by Mike Overson, editor-in-chief

<b>In every dorm room, as well as around campus, colored pamphlets display emergency campus information. This pamphlet, originally created by the State of Utah Division of Facilities and Construction Management but modified by the Campus Emergency Task Force, includes pertinent phone numbers and offices illustrating what students, faculty and professors should do if various events ranging from; a biological hazard, hostage situation, suspicious package, fire, telephone threats, violent acts, earthquake and bomb threats take place.</b>

According to the pamphlet, if a biohazard is discovered, the police should be immediately notified so that someone who is trained can assist you. If a chemical is suspected of being released, then every attempt to stop or limit spread should be made. Isolating the container is key to stopping the spread of contaminates and limiting exposure to yourself and others. Make sure to warn others of danger; this will cut down the number of exposed people.

In the event of a hostage situation, always remain calm and cooperate with emergency responders. Avoid conversation or eye contact with attackers unless force or threats of force are used. If you are on the outside of a hostage scenario, remain outside and do not enter a building until told that it is all clear and safe to go in, the pamphlet explains.

Suspicious packages should be left alone until police arrive. Some clues as to which parcels of mail should be examined include: restrictive markings, foreign mail, air mail or special delivery, excessive weight, handwritten or poorly typed envelope, incorrect title or titles with no name, misspelled common verbs, oily stains or discolorations, rigid envelopes, lopsided or uneven envelopes, wires or foil protruding from package or envelope, excessive masking tape, string or other wrapping. If the package is inside, notify others on upper and lower floors.

Fires present a challenge because of an unpredictable nature. It&#39;s important to know the layout of your building as well as location of exits, alarm boxes, stairwells and fire extinguishers. Knowledge of how to properly use an extinguisher is crucial in not wasting the limited chemical in each container. Everyone should have a planned meeting place so they can be accounted for. In case of fire, everyone must leave the building and elevators should be avoided. Fresh air is important and must be thought of in an escape. Try to think whether a staircase or window has the most available oxygen. If caught in smoke, take small breaths through your nose and either hunch down or crawl on your hands and knees to get away from flames. Remember as toxic fumes settle six inches off the floor. Feeling the bottoms of doors is a good indication of what the climate is on the opposite side of the door.

Telephone threats are to be taken seriously, let the caller finish without interruption. Write down the message exactly how they deliver it. Listen for any background noise that can be used to identify the location of a call. Important information to write down include time of call, date, exact words, target of call and why they are being threatened. Is caller male, female, young or old? Describe the caller&#39;s voice, does it sound familiar? What noise did you hear in the background? Have previous calls been received? Lastly, what time did the call end?

Violent acts should be taken seriously. Don&#39;t take remarks personally. Focus on the situation, be helpful and attentive, this will hopefully diffuse tension in the situation. Let the person vent feelings, listen actively and acknowledge what the person says. Maintaining eye contact is key, so is using the person&#39;s name. Be polite and professional, take notes and write down details so they will see you are interested. If you don&#39;t understand something, ask questions. Repeat details back to demonstrate understanding of important points. Apologize sincerely for the inconvenience and take responsibility to solve problem. If you don&#39;t know the answer, say you don&#39;t know, then tell them you will find out. Don&#39;t make a promise you can&#39;t keep. How to respond, don&#39;t make any sudden movements. If possible, leave the area. If it is unsafe to do so, seek cover. If you are near the location, do not go towards the violence. Instead try and get help.

To prepare for an earthquake be aware of potential hazards, practice primary and secondary evacuation routes. If possible arrange desks away from things that may fall while you are underneath it. Know that everything will move and you might get knocked off your feet. Count on aftershocks, which may occur anytime after the initial quake. Plan a family response to this as well as put together a 72-hour kit.

If a quake occurs stay calm, your calm nature will help others control themselves. Protect yourself from falling debris by getting under a table or in a doorway. Stay away from anything that will move and could hurt you in the tumble. If outside stay away from tall objects and power lines as these might cause injury. Seriously-injured persons should be moved only if they are in immediate danger of further injury from falling debris or walls. Your safety is top priority. Do not use lighters or matches in building as gas lines may have ruptured. Use telephones to contact emergency personnel only, leave lines open for emergency use. After the quake evacuate carefully but quickly. Evacuation procedures can be found at

In case of bomb threat, do not put the caller on hold. Be calm and courteous: do not attempt to transfer the call. As the caller talks, take down prudent information such as time of call, whether caller is male or female, where the bomb is located, what room, what does the bomb look like, what will make it explode. Be sure to tell the caller that a bomb will cause injury or death. Why is this building being bombed, what is caller&#39;s name, where is the call being placed? Voice characteristics are important, as well as speech patterns. Language use and accents are good things to make note of. Background sounds and mannerisms of caller are also important.

In e-mail from Vice President for Institutional Adv/Student Services Brad King, he wrote, "Training for faculty and staff includes a session in our orientation week. Training of building marshals are employees that volunteered and, in some cases, asked to receive training regarding what to do in a specific building in an emergency has also just begun. Phyl Johnson, campus safety and homeland security director; Bob Potts, campus fire marshal; James Prettyman, head of campus police and Sheila Burghardt, facilities maintenance manager, conduct this training. There have been two training sessions thus far.

"When these sessions have been completed, there will be specific training for employees in each building on evacuation routes, etc. The next step is to instruct employees with CERT (Campus Emergency Response Team) training. These people will be trained in responding to campus emergencies. A campus emergency fair is planned for the Jennifer Leavitt Student Center where further training will be done with students and employees.

"This past summer, a campus safety task force met eight times to update the campus safety policy which was created in the late 1990s. The product of their work can be seen on the CEU web-site ( under faculty and staff, policies and procedures, pending approval. This policy is set to go to the college senate in October for review and approval.

"We are working on a notification plan. DEl Beatty, the new dean of students is meeting on Sept. 27 with all of the deans of students to discuss the viable options as a state response to the Virginia Tech experience.

Beatty has surveyed the ASCEU leadership and the students regarding text notification for emergency situations and has found strong support. The campus discussion revolved around rooftop emergency sirens, text or cell phone alerts, telephones in classrooms and wired or wireless intercom systems.

"The campus safety committee, which meets monthly, will be reviewing the newly released final report from the investigation from the Virginia Tech tragedy. This report will be analyzed and the recommendations will be discussed and compared to our proposed policy.

Any areas that have not been addressed will be when the policy goes to the senate for discussion and approval. The recent situation in Delaware will also be discussed at the safety committee meeting, but no report is available from that incident.

"Guns on campus have been an area of recent debate and legal action in Utah. CEU follows state law regarding the possession and storage of firearms. Any person, student, employee or visitor in possession of a firearm on campus should be immediately reported to campus police.

"Campus police have the responsibility to determine the legal status of the weapon carrier. All firearms are prohibited on the CEU campus with the exception of a person holding a valid concealed-weapons permit. All other persons are prohibited from possessing a firearm on campus. A weapon may be stored in a vehicle if it is deemed unloaded. Please refer to state statutes 76-10-502, 505 and 505.5 for any further questions with this subject. Concealed weapons permit holders can only posses a firearm in keeping with Utah State Code regarding concealed weapons. On a brighter note, there have been no gun threats at CEU&#39;s, Price campus at least in the past 27 years," King wrote.

One item that the pamphlet fails to discuss is what to do if a student shows signs of deep depression and the possibility of acting out to gain attention.

"If anyone suspects that a student may do harm to themselves or others, the situation should be reported to campus police, any faculty, staff or administrator as soon as possible. CEU is committed to providing assistance to any student with issues that may lead to acts of violence. The best way for students to help in the campus safety effort is to be aware of their surroundings," King stated.

"All students should be actively involved in the campus activities and community. Pay attention to your roommates and others on campus. Be vigilant in reporting unusual or questionable activities and most of all; be outgoing and involved in the lives of your classmates. This is the most effective way to keep CEU the safest possible environment," King finished.

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Mike Overson




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Mike Overson, “Campus shootings trigger college emergency plans for students,” The April 16 Archive, accessed May 20, 2024,