On a Monday morning in early May classes were ongoing, but Dean Ray Lorion’s conference room held more than fifteen people in lime green vests who were about to disperse through the building. There was no threat in Hawkins Hall, but a most important campus activity was focused there. The people in lime green vests were going to do a “Shelter in Place” activity, which is designed to make TU a safer place. Their roles would be as safety officers, monitors and evaluators.The activity has become a necessity as the concept of campuses as sanctuaries exempt from violence has been challenged over and over in the past several years. A recent government report analyzed 272 acts of violence against specific targets on college campuses in 42 states and the District of Columbia between 1900 and 2008. A total of 281 deaths resulted. Of those, 190 were students and 72 employees and another 247 were injured. All the ivy and good educational intentions in the world do not add up to guaranteed safety.
The genesis of such violence is usually insanity of a sort, something over which there is not much control. But there is a way of addressing that through anticipation and practice. Thus, the exercise in Hawkins Hall, TU’s first, will be followed by others in different academic and administrative buildings. Ultimately the whole campus will have been put through these paces.
What is involved? Simply speaking, the exercise is about strategic barricading. Common areas in buildings (even outside of buildings) are vulnerable and must be cleared. It is best for any student, faculty or staff to find a way into a room or area with a door. Doors should be locked or barricaded with furniture. Windows should be covered if possible and interior walls chosen as the place to cluster near. Lights should be extinguished.
While this sounds simple, affecting it under duress is not. That is why the concept and the planning must be visited and re-visited. The promise from the Office of Emergency Preparedness is that it will be. Corporal Joseph Gregory of TUPD conducted the first drill and is already involved in planning the next one. His colleagues in the Office of Environmental Health and Safety are heavily committed.
The first effort was a resounding success. Let us support with our awareness and conscious attention the next and the next until we all know the drill.