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2-year colleges boost safety measures

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By Tyler McNeil

Campus News

This was originally published in the fall semester.

The Umpqua Community College shooting this past fall left waves across the nation and emergency preparedness reminders across New York State two-year schools.

“We believe that [Corning Community College], like all other college communities, is a haven for learning and growth. And, while we hope we never have to use them, we do have emergency response procedures in place and personnel prepared to implement those procedures should an emergency occur,” said CCC Associate Communications Director Stephanie Specchio in an email.

On Oct. 8, SUNY requested all of its 64 colleges statewide to share in a moment of silence. “We all share in the responsibility of making the learning, living and working environment of our campuses safe. No student should ever have to fear that pursuing an education could mean risking their life,” said SUNY Assembly President Thomas Mastro in a statement.

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“The chairman of our Board of Trustees sent a campus-wide email to the campus community the day after the shooting to express our collective sorrow over the tragedy and reaffirm that [Dutchess County Community College] will continue to seriously address matters of security and safety,” said DCC Director of Communications and Public Relations Judi Stokes. Over the last month, Stokes said in an email, the campus hopes to discuss the college’s security opportunities in an effort to improve campus safety.

Over the summer, Finger Lakes Community College Campus Safety officers were finally permitted to carry a firearm. “A lot of places are now already integrated with the whole emergency infrastructure of the county, city and state or wherever you happen to be,” said FLCC Director of Communications and Public Affairs Lenore Friend.

“We already had the training in place. It was a matter of if we wanted to have our officers with firearms and have our guys be the initial responders [to violence],” said FLCC Director of Campus Safety Operations Jason Maitland. According to Maitland, peace officers receive higher wages and more extensive training than other campus security officers.

After the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, that left 33 people dead, Finger Lakes Community College, along with other community colleges, made a push to get peace officer status or the ability for campus security officers to make an arrest.

“If you look at just about any other college or university, you’re going to find that a lot of [security measures] dates back to Virginia Tech,” said Mohawk Valley Community College Executive Director of Marketing & Communications Matthew Snyder. He said, after the 2007 event, the college made pushes towards working closer with law enforcement, gaining peace officer status and expanding outlets for emergency alerts.

Every employee at MVCC is required to undergo emergency training. Last year was the first year of the training programs. “Our reasoning there is that if our employees know what to do during emergencies, they’ll be able to take steps to keep themselves and our students safe if there’s a need to take emergency action,” said Snyder.

SUNY Broome is located nearby the Broome County Sheriff’s office, which, according to SUNY Broome President Kevin Drumm, gives an edge for the college in case of emergency. “There are marked police vehicles going by this campus constantly,” he said in a statement.

According to Columbia-Greene Community College President James Campion, recently the college has taken new measures in working with law enforcement. This summer, CGCC had its first multi-agency response lockdown drill with town, park, county and state police involved as well as faculty. “We’re very careful about how often we do that kind of drill,” said Campion. “We’ve not done it with the students here because there are some students who can’t be here [and] some students that aren’t here and it wouldn’t be effective.”

SUNY Orange scheduled faculty-centered efforts last month in an effort to promote college safety. “In light of [Umpqua], we scheduled two safety open forums for staff and faculty,” said Communications Officer Mike Albright. After open forums with faculty and staff at SUNY Orange, the college hopes to have sessions with students about college safety.

“We’ve been continuously adding more security cameras and increasing the number of bluelight [emergency] phones to connect directly to campus safety,” said Albright. Over the last five years, along with construction of their Middletown campus, SUNY Orange has added more bluelight emergency phones on their main campus in Newburgh.

As schools look to discuss emergency preparedness on their campuses, many institutions have taken safety to the mobile age. “Notably we added a texting system and we used that to communicate with students to get them used to receiving immediate messages via text,” said Westchester Community College Director of College Relations Patrick Hennessey. In recent years, WCC started using the Rave Alert Emergency Notification system. According to Rave Mobile Safety, 40 percent of the nation’s student population uses the system.

Rockland County Community College recently started working with IPS (Indoor Positioning System) to have a panic alert system application for students. “We can tell what floor you’re on. We can tell exactly where you are. You don’t have to say a word,” said SUNY Rockland Director of Public Safety William Murphy.

The system, which only is available for students who register, links up to a student’s ID, schedule and vehicle information. On a separate screen, a map of the student’s location on the campus map updates every ten seconds once the student hits their panic button. According to Murphy, the system is planned to be in operation by this month.

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