Their recommendations, which focused on prevention and response to campus emergencies such as the deadly shootings at Northern Illinois University, included suggestions for detecting early signs of and treating mental illness. Research has indicated that the risk of violence may increase when other risk factors are involved, such as substance abuse. Training should be targeted to campus security forces and first responders, health services personnel counselors, resident advisers, coaches, and student/minority affairs staff according to the report. The group surveyed more than 112 higher education institutions in Illinois and found that about 64% have mental health counseling services. The task force's other recommendations for colleges and universities in Illinois included: becoming part of the federal government's standardized incident management process called the National Incident Management System, implement methods such as e-mail and speaker systems to alert students of an incident on campus, engaging in practice emergency drills at least twice a year and requiring more training for campus security (Ill. Campus Security Group Calls for Better Training, 2008).
One of the major criticisms that came out in the Virginia shootings was that there was a lack of speed shown in notifying the campus that two students had been shot to death. It took administrators more than two hours to get out an e-mail warning to students and staff to be cautious. This gave the gunman time to enter a classroom building and continue his deadly rampage. Communicating information to interested audiences, both on-campus and off-campus is critical during times of emergency. It is felt that colleges should be using low-tech devices such as sirens, loudspeakers and flags, both to back up and accent high-tech notification systems (Oklahoma College Security Task Force Moving Swiftly, 2007).
For months after the massacre at Virginia Tech, colleges of all kinds continued to weigh campus-safety concerns. They wanted to know how they could help troubled students and how they could better respond to emergencies. The real challenge that campuses face is that they have people coming and going all the time. People may be bringing all kinds of issues onto the campus, but it is felt that institutions may have less insight into who these people really are. In other words, a troubled student who spends only a few hours a week on a campus may prove even harder to detect and help than one who studies, eats, and sleeps there (Hoover, 2008).
This dilemma is a growing concern at two-year colleges across the country. There' has been a huge shift, at all institutions, in the recognition of the responsibility to the student. Colleges are reaching out to students that are in distress. One strategy that is being used to the revamping of orientation programs to include more information about student services, including mental-health resources. Technology is another tool that is being leveraged. Some two-year institutions, have installed video screens campus wide, which they use to promote advising and counseling services. Many community colleges are also doing more to help faculty and staff members recognize students that are in crisis (Hoover, 2008).
It is felt that preventing some campus incidents may involve luck, but responding to them requires good planning. Like residential colleges and universities, nonresidential ones have enhanced their emergency-response plans recently as well. This has not been easy due to the vastness of many colleges. Take for example the Virginia Community College system, which serves 340,000 people on 40 campuses. The system has 5.7 million square feet of instructional space in 224 buildings. Recently the system's campus-safety committee issued a series of recommendations. One was that colleges consider both high- and low-tech means of communicating instructions to students, whether there has been a violent incident on the campus or just a broken water main. Text messages may work well in one emergency but not another. That's why at least one Virginia institution, Thomas Nelson Community College, has stocked the campus with bullhorns. Other colleges like Northern Virginia Community College are developing radio systems in order to broadcast messages to AM radios within several miles of their campuses. There is no one right answer to this problem and each school must do what works for them (Hoover, 2008).
The goal of every community college is to provide a good education in a safe environment. Each college can attain this goal by putting some planning and forethought into campus security. It is very important to have the tools in place, but just as important to make sure that everyone knows what to do if a situation should arise. Holding training sessions and workshops for faculty, instructors and especially students is a key to making sure that everyone knows what to do.
The campus security should be in constant communication with the local authorities in order to make sure that an effective emergency plan is in place. All agencies that are involved should know how the plan works before a situation arises. This will allow for the best possible response to an emergency situation and may in the end be a life saving effort.
Along with having a good emergency plan in place there must also be an effective communication plan in place. It must be decided ahead of time how students and college personnel will be notified in the event of an emergency. Everyone involved must know how the system works and when to use it. The system should be tested on a routine basis to ensure that it is working properly. Keeping everyone safe is a high priority and can be done with some preplanning and cooperation among everyone involved.
Campus Security. (2009). Retrieved August 10, 2009, from U.S. Department of Education Web