The 2017 Campus Safety Conferences are officially in the books after our show in Long Beach came to a close August 1.
This year’s conferences gave attendees the opportunity to hear from and speak with dozens of experts during keynote addresses, educational sessions, tabletop exercises and much more.
As always, the Campus Safety team had a great time meeting the people that make up our readership and learning from school security experts around the country.
One of the most insightful discussions occurred during the Long Beach expert forum Keys to Effective Emergency Preparedness. The panel consisted of nationally recognized experts in emergency management and officials with firsthand experience responding to campus emergencies.
Each of the panelists gave advice on emergency preparedness based on their experiences in the field, providing attendees with a diverse set of perspectives and an exhaustive list of lessons learned.
Below we give an overview of the discussion and review some of the messages panelists delivered to attendees.
Speakers Share Personal Experiences
Anderson is a Virginia Tech shootingsurvivor and Executive Director of the Koshka Foundation. Anderson was shot three times during the attack and has since dedicated herself to helping school officials improve school safety and support services for victims of various tragedies.
As part of the panel and during her keynote speech, Anderson walked attendees through the little decisions she made on the morning of the shooting that ended up having major consequences, like the decision to wear closed-toe shoes and sit in the back corner of her class.
Anderson also commended the actions taken by Wendell Finchum, the police chief at Virginia Tech at the time of the shooting, and said Virginia Tech took several steps in response to the shooting that were particularly helpful in aiding her recovery.
For instance, the school created an Office of Recovery and Support soon after the mass shooting. Employees at the new office acted as personal campus liaisons to each victim, meeting them on campus and even visiting their hometowns.
Virginia Tech also gave advanced phone calls to the victims that remained on campus in the years after the shooting before sending any campus-wide alerts to the community.
“[The advance notification] gave us the opportunity and time to ask questions, so we weren’t just getting 140 characters,” Anderson recalled. “That was very helpful because it gave us a chance to plan our personal response.”
Perhaps most importantly, Anderson says Virginia Tech helped with her recovery long after the shooting and urged attendees to do the same for victims of tragedies on their campuses.
“Make a benchmark time to reach back out to people affected by these things, because everyone’s going to deal with trauma differently and on different timelines,” Anderson said. “Just be as inclusive as you can.”
Gay is the mother of Sandy Hook shooting victim Josephine Gay and Cofounder of Safe and Sound Schools. Gay recounted her experience on the day of the shooting, including her thoughts after receiving a brief, automated phone call from the school district informing her that there’d been a shooting at one of the schools in town.
The call predictably caused a large amount of confusion and panic as parents tried to get more information on their own and from the media.
“The initial communication needed to be more specific and include ‘We will follow up at this time or through this website’ or whatever multimodal channels of communication you can set up,” Gay said.
Another thing Gay stressed to the audience is the importance of redundancy in emergency plans. Many administrators were shot in the early stages of the Sandy Hook attack, leaving fewer people on campus capable of carrying out emergency procedures.
Gay shared several other lessons learned from the tragedy at Sandy Hook, some of which are listed below:
- Emergency protocols need to take into account the stressful nature of emergency situations. Gay noted that Sandy Hook’s lockdown protocol seemed to work fine during drills but it wasn’t a practical response with live fire going on immediately outside classroom doors.
- Whatever your role is in the community, when an emergency occurs, you are a first responder
- Simple measures like basic classroom locks or putting paper over a classroom door’s window can save lives
- Communication with parents, the media and between emergency responders is critical to an effective emergency response
Littlestone is a lieutenant with the UCLA Police Department. Lt. Littlestone talked specifically about UCLA’s experience when a 30-inch water main near campus burst in 2014, sending eight to ten million gallons of water onto campus and causing $13 million worth of damage.
The flooding impacted UCLA’s gymnasium, athletic fields and parking garages, creating a dangerous situation for students attempting to leave campus. At the time, UCLA had no search and rescue team
“A major percentage of the campus was affected by the flood, and we had to determine what kind of damages we’d sustained and how to respond,” Lt. Littlestone remembered. “Train your dispatchers to ask the right questions when unexpected events occur on campus.”
If you enjoyed this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our digital newsletters!