Colleges Revisit Their Security Plans
As with Columbine's aftermath, campus law enforcement officials predicted a few tangible changes that'll likely occur in the coming weeks and months:
l If they are not constrained by tight budgets, Steven Healy, head of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, expects many colleges and universities to invest in mass-notification systems. "As students have moved away from landlines and are more dependent on cellphones and text messaging," he says, "we need to have a capability to reach out them." Those systems could include reverse 911 calls, for instance, or text messaging.
l Colleges will probably dust off those plans many drew up after the Columbine tragedy and revamp them if needed. Although many colleges instituted active shooter programs so that they could respond quickly to a situation like Virginia Tech's, it's unclear how often college police department run regular drills. David Perry, chief of police at Florida State University, ran through one such drill last year involving an active shooter in a dormitory. Only a handful of student participants were informed beforehand. The drill was designed to have four or five injured students. It also involved a fire alarm and firecrackers. He says it's standard procedure for colleges to have an active shooter response plan in place, but he started the unannounced drills for his department only last year.
l Colleges will also probably focus more on how to share information across many departments or parts of campus: a professor who's alarmed by a specific student, a mental health counselor treating an individual, or a resident adviser, for example.
"There are always indications," Healy says. "There are bits of information that reside with several different individuals, but because that information is scattered we never get a full image of the threat. One of the things that will come out of this is how we need to do a better job of piecing together this very troubling info."
With Bret Schulte and Angie C. Marek