Security watch

Proactive planning forum

Campus Emergency Planning Strategies Forum, presented by Siemens Industry Inc. last month at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center, Rosemont, Ill., provided a informative forum for systems installers, school officials, media and security personnel on emergency planning, mass notification and campus safety awareness.

Presented in an informal format, the tone for the one-day event was an educational forum that included such highlights including: a presentation by Pete Tately on the evolution of emergency communication; a review from Hollis Stambaugh, Center for Public Protection's of her task force's findings on the most notorious school shootings to date NIU, Virginia Tech and Columbine; and a panel discussion (featuring Robert Libby; Pete Tately; Hollis Stambaugh; and Chief of Police Bruce Harrison) addressing key questions from the audience and forum attendees.

"One of the main questions to consider when we look at past events that have shaped the industry, including the Khobar bombing and 9/11 and the formation of the Department of Homeland Security following 9/11, is when will the next event be?" asked Tately. "There will be a next event, we just don't know when."

And whatever that event may be, Tately's presentation gave the clear indication that we need to be ready for it.

"What a lot of education facilities and schools did after the Virginia Tech shooting, is they invested in Web-based alerting," Tately continued. "Yet, only 40 percent of students actually sign up for Web-based services-and many students that do sign up admit to turning their cell phones off during class at school. What's important to consider, is that although Web-based alerting is a great tool, it's not the end-all to beat-all solution."

Organizations need other ways to communicate and one problem that clutters what seems to be a simple task to implement, having some sort of security system in a school, is having an array of products and systems available but not knowing what to do with them.

"Start with some sort of prioritization that you're trying to accomplish within your school," said Tately. "No one is going to put a completely expanded system in place today-it will take time. The important thing to remember is not to let too much technology get in your way. Instead, apply it as it fits to your use. Allow your requirements to drive the communications technology you use-not the other way around."

One of the biggest problems Virginia Tech had was that they had no real capacity or planning in advance to work with families of victims, according to Stambaugh. "And this resulted in a huge liability nightmare for the school. There has to be an emergency team. There has to be a threat assessment and it is important not only to coordinate a plan, but to develop and revise the plan and continue training your personnel," Stambaugh continued.

Forum's Law Enforcement Insights

Check out these insights from Chief Bruce Harrison as he responded to audience members who asked some hard-hitting questions:

Chief Bruce Harrison: "People don't understand the liability until after an event happens-it's a constant effort to change people's ways of thinking."

Chief Harrison: "Shooters are prepared for you too. Kazimerczyk wanted to create his legacy and he wanted to do a lot more than what he was able to. It's not just about instant notification but about having communications systems in place."

Chief Harrison: "In the academic world, things like security are going to grow slowly. Some of the technologies that are available are great but schools are still resistant to them. Technology is great but if you've ever been in a disaster where there is no technology left, you're going to have to fall back on a communicative plan-a plan that identifies some of those necessities that you have to fall back on."

The Discussion Continues

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