Gun-related incidents made national headlines every day last week, two of which occurred on college campuses. Despite the recent series of shootings, however, security officials at Boston University say the campus is well-equipped to handle emergencies.
“We have officers specifically trained on how to respond to shootings should one occur on campus, and that is basically get there as fast as you can, address the shooter speedily to resolve that threat,” said Boston University Police Department Chief Tom Robbins.
A student at Purdue University, located in West Lafayette, Ind., was shot and killed on Tuesday. Another campus shooting occurred at South Carolina State University Friday, where a student was killed by a gunman.
However, Robbins says, the BU community has developed a solid routine on how to keep students informed and safe during emergencies.
“One of the biggest things we do is provide information on our website, and we provide information through training that we have developed on people how to react,” Robbins said.
The key component of the emergency security plan is notifying the community to avoid the premises of the shooting site through a university-wide virtual alert system, known as BU Alert, Robbins added.
“It would be a notification of what’s transpiring,” he said. “We would also tell people how to respond to that–In other words, stay away from this area, police are responding a report of whatever it is.”
Lauren Palitz, a Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences senior, said the BUPD’s constant presence on campus is reassuring.
“They’ve responded well to situations,” Palitz said. “They patrol Allston all the time. I always see BUPD cars all the time. We’ve chosen to live in an urban environment, so with that choice comes risk, and that risk can’t ever be completely annihilated … Nobody’s ever 100 percent safe, but I don’t walk around fearing for anything.”
BUPD officials developed the emergency security plan after the 1999 Columbine High School Massacre in Jefferson County, Colo. The plan has been adapted according to new information received from other campus shootings, said Vice President of Administrative Services Peter Fiedler.
“The university is constantly revising our emergency plans based on what we learn, unfortunately from what others have experienced, like the Purdue shooting that happened earlier in the week, and Columbine,” Fiedler said. “We keep modifying our plan in which to address those things.”
To help the BU community respond to on-campus crises, the university now offers an online emergency training course through Blackboard Learn, said Executive Director of Research Compliance Kevin Tuohey, from BU’s Environmental Health and Safety department.
The online course, which appears under the “All Blackboard Courses” tab, includes sections about shelter-in-place versus evacuation procedures, fires, bomb threats, weather emergencies and chemical hazards, Tuohey said.
Despite its urban setting, Robbins said the precautions security officials implement make BU a well-protected campus.
“We have a very secure and safe campus,” Robbins said. “We have a number of officers that work 24/7 with supervision who provide protection and security. We put a lot of information out for the student body, faculty and staff on how to remain safe … However, I will caution that like any big city, we do have some incidental crime that occurs.”
Ryan O’Flaherty, a College of Engineering sophomore, said the Blackboard emergency education course would be beneficial to freshmen anxious about the dangers of their new urban campus.
“You need to be comforted in that way,” O’Flaherty said. “I have a pretty good handle of how to live in the city at this point because I’m a sophomore, but if you’re an incoming freshman and you’ve never lived in the city before, then it’s probably a good idea to learn about how to take care of yourself.”