Virginia Tech panel recommends security solutions for colleges

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Virginia Tech panel recommends security solutions for colleges

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Issue Date:Friday September 7, 2007
Section: HeadLine News Section
By Kellen Henry, Staff Writer

Many students gathered for candlelight vigils and wore ribbons in support of Virginia Tech after the April 16 shooting. While most students did not fear for their lives on campus, they realized such a tragedy could just as easily occur in Morgantown.

Last week, a panel appointed by Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine reported findings on the shooting rampage by student Seung-Hui Cho that killed 32 people in Blacksburg, Va.

The report presented more than 70 recommendations to advise law enforcement, school officials and medical personnel.

They also intended to help other colleges choose proper security solutions for their own campuses.

This week, West Virginia University officials announced a plan to send mass text messages in an emergency. The University will also provide better quality lighting in key pedestrian areas such as sidewalks between the Downtown Library Complex, the Mountainlair, the PRT and residence halls.

The panels' report criticized Virginia Tech's emergency response plan because it lacked guidelines for a shooter scenario and did not allow police to play a major role in emergency decision making.

"We don't see that as an issue here at WVU. As the first responders here, it makes sense for us to have an active role," said Chief Bob Roberts of the University Department of Public Safety.

Administrators here began revising its policies in December 2005 to align it with the federal Department of Homeland Security's National Incident Management System. The University's new plan will be unveiled in October said Becky Lofstead, executive director of internal communications.

It will include emergency training for students and staff and job action checklists. There is a Web site planned for relaying emergency information, Lofstead said.

At Virginia Tech, police had no means of sending emergency alerts themselves and also failed to warn the administration that a gunman could still be loose on campus.

The initial emergency e-mail and phone alerts to students and staff came too late and were too vague to be effective, the report found.

"Warning the students, faculty and staff might have made a difference," the panel wrote. "So the earlier and clearer the warning, the more chance an individual had of surviving."

With a large student body sprawling between two campuses, WVU sees the dire need to refine its emergency alert system.

The Tech panel advised a multi-level alert, for instance alert sirens that signal students to check texts or e-mails for emergency updates.

The Virginia Tech shootings also reinforced the importance of solid mental health care for students and faculty.

The panel found that university and health officials did not coordinate information and intervene efficiently after concerns surfaced about the shooter.

"No one knew all the information and no one connected all the dots," the report said.

WVU's Carruth Center for Counseling already tries to communicate information while protecting privacy, said director Catherine Yura. A crisis committee joins counselors with resident life, police and student affairs representatives.

"What we do is discuss situations that come up and try to understand if it is something to be concerned about," Yura said.

kellen.henry@mail.wvu.edu

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Original Source: The Daily Athenaeum
<a href="http://www.da.wvu.edu/show_article.php?&story_id=29759">http://www.da.wvu.edu/show_article.php?&story_id=29759</a>

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Kellen Henry

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2008-02-18

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Kacey Beddoes

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Leann Ray <Leann.Ray@mail.wvu.edu>

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eng

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Kellen Henry, "Virginia Tech panel recommends security solutions for colleges," in The April 16 Archive, Item #1695, http://april16archive.org/items/show/1695 (accessed August 27, 2014).