Colleges continue to add new ideas to improving campus security. The most recent college to jump headlong into security upgrades is SUNY Orange, as detailed in this article.
Since the April 16, 2007 shootings here at Virginia Tech, there have been many changes to the nationwide attitude toward campus security.
Universities, especially large, spread out communities such as Tech and many other state schools, face the challenge of easing fears with adequate security measures without spending the school dry.
However, there are very few actual “security” differences. The changes have been upgrades to “emergency notification systems.” In other words, colleges are simply finding ways to alert students to a threat, which was the major system questioned in the wake of April 16.
Tech pioneered the text-message alert system and the electronic LED signs in classrooms. The text-message alert system has become a widespread tool used nationwide.
The LED signs are certainly less common, mostly due to their prohibitively expensive price tag.
However, they may also be the most effective system currently employed by Tech due to their instantaneous, guaranteed effect.
As I reported in this February story, Tech is still seeking to expand the alert system. More LED signs have been purchased for installation over the summer.
In addition, Tech is developing the widget alert application, something not being used elsewhere at this time.
Still, the LED signs cannot be placed in every dormitory at this point.
Even when only the campus is considered, there are gaps in the notification.
SUNY Orange is utilizing “emergency announcement speakers.” While Tech possesses emergency lights and sirens, they were not used during either real notification event last school year (the Pritchard gunshot scare, and the murder at the Graduate Life Center).
While the use of public address speakers is certainly another effective, and instantaneous idea for alerts, it would require another large investment to implement any system of use on a campus that serves 26,000 people.
SUNY Orange, a smaller college than Tech, is utilizing university funds, as well as a grant, to accomplish its mission, and even the smaller school will not reach “100 percent coverage” of its campus for another year.
As colleges continue in rush to create a secure campus, especially at the school that set off the frenzy, some degree of outside help will be needed to complete the job.
Instant notification for anyone on any part of the campus seems to be the ultimate goal.
Tech may actually be the closest among universities of its size, but nobody has all the features of other schools. There is no audible announcement to catch people as they walk across the Drillfield, and those not in class must be utilizing a computer to receive instant alerts, yet Tech is on the leading edge of campus security.
All could afford a little collaboration, but there is no organized method of bringing ideas together at this juncture.
Whether it is a state or federal standard or subsidized funding, colleges need some outside aid, probably from a governing body, if they want to even come close to accomplishing the goal.
Colleges cannot afford to instantly notify an entire campus of an emergency.
It is certainly being strived for, but it doesn’t seem possible without a little help. Zc