Forums Address Campus Safety Concerns
Detailed plans that address UC Riverside safety and security issues – from fires and chemical spills to earthquakes and acts of violence – were in place long before the Virginia Tech massacre, university officials said in campus forums earlier this month. The April shootings in Virginia have prompted a review of those policies, however.
Security and safety are important, Al Diaz, vice chancellor for administration, told about 30 faculty, staff and students attending one of two forums held in May. Chancellor France Córdova requested the forums to increase awareness of safety programs, policies and procedures.
Although the university was prepared to handle a variety of emergencies, the Virginia Tech shooting increased awareness of the need for continued vigilance, Diaz and others said as they answered questions about evacuation drills, getting help for students in distress and the university’s zero-tolerance policy for weapons on campus.
Everyone is responsible for campus safety and should report threats or safety concerns, Eddie Garcia, assistant chief of police, and other officials said. If someone is confronted by a gunman on campus the first reaction should be to get out of harm’s way, then notify authorities, Garcia said.
When possible, 911 calls should be made from campus phones, he said. 911 calls made from cell phones go to the California Highway Patrol, which transfers the call to the appropriate law-enforcement agency. Garcia suggested memorizing the number for the Riverside Police Department: (951) 787-7911.
UCR officials recently photographed building interiors, classrooms and aerial views of the campus, and placed them on thumb drives so they can be uploaded quickly for police responding to an emergency, Garcia said.
The university also is exploring options for a campuswide emergency notification system, he said.
Every office should have a plan for responding to disturbed people who may walk in, said Brad Compliment, director of the UCR Counseling Center. The center can help prepare such a plan, and can assist distressed students and guide faculty members concerned about a student’s behavior, he said.
Ross Grayson, director of Environmental Health and Safety, said campus safety and security leaders are planning a tabletop exercise using the scenario of an active shooter on campus. Environmental Health and Safety also is considering whether to increase the number of call boxes.
Responding to questions about privacy laws that limit the ability to respond to a mentally disturbed student, Córdova said the California Legislature is reviewing those rules to see if they are too restrictive.
“We decided here that we’d rather be sued on the preventative end than the other,” she said.