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5 years after Virginia Tech, campuses improve safety

In 2007, a shooter on Virginia Tech’s campus killed 32 students, faculty and staff as well as himself, leaving some universities throughout the country sympathetic and determined to prevent their own tragedies.

The massacre brought increased awareness of campus safety to the University as well as a greater need to communicate, said Jill Carr, senior associate vice president of Student Affairs and dean of students.

“I think none of us wanted to think it was possible on a college campus,” Carr said. “Overall, there is a greater awareness of what’s going on around us, people are encouraged to communicate if there is potential danger.”

The campus community can be notified in various ways following an emergency. This includes AlertBG, an opt-in text and email alert system as well as TV and computer screens around campus broadcasting messages about how to keep safe. Staff, faculty and students can also communicate to University officials using phones installed in every classroom on campus, Carr said.

In the wake of events like the Virginia Tech shooting, campus security was also affected, Carr said.

“I think whenever those situations occur it is a good time to re-examine those policies,” Ginsburg said. “Before Virginia Tech, it was sort of a containment philosophy.”

Before, when there was the threat of a shooter, the conventional response was to huddle in place and wait, Ginsburg said. Since Virginia Tech, this philosophy has changed and members of the campus community are now trained in a program called ALICE.

ALICE, which stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, was first utilized at the University about a year and a half ago, according to an email from Monica Moll, director of Public Safety.

The department of Public Safety gives ALICE presentations to the campus community to teach people what their response options are when a violent intruder enters the building and they are waiting on police to arrive, Moll said.

While the students, faculty and staff learn ALICE, the department also has a response plan for active shooter incidents, Moll said.

“Essentially the first thing we do is have the officers on the shift respond to the location of the incident. They have been trained to immediately intervene, seek out the shooter and eliminate the threat,” Moll said. “In the meantime, the dispatcher will be sending out an AlertBG message to notify the campus community and the dispatcher will also be calling for assistance from the Bowling Green city police, the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio State Highway Patrol and EMS.”

Although the department of Public Safety has its own policies and plans in place to deal with an active shooter situation, Moll said community members also make a difference when it comes to security.

“The biggest impact on security comes from community members having an increased awareness of personal safety and potential problem behavior and better reporting when they notice something concerning,” Moll said. “That is what our training programs for the community are designed to accomplish.”

Usually after an incident like the shooting at Virginia Tech, some people become very aware, Moll said.

“Calls about suspicious people may increase for a short period, but that usually fades as time goes on and settles into a more vigilant and aware, but measured response to odd or concerning behavior,” Moll said.

After the shooting, some people at the University became more suspicious, Ginsburg said.

“I don’t think that’s the worst thing in the world,” he said. “It’s better to report something and it turn out to be nothing. Reporting is what determines how safe a campus is going to be.”

While past shootings at other university campuses have sparked discussion about and changed communication and security at the University, Moll believes it probably had a similar affect on every campus.

The Virginia Tech shooting may have had an effect on every campus’ security, Carr said.

“In a number of ways, it certainly brought to light a whole level of violence and danger,” Carr said.

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