CSU–Pueblo enhances its crisis and emergency response systems

Two campus committees charged with addressing both crisis prevention and emergency response at Colorado State University-Pueblo have made recommendations for a safer campus environment that were recently approved by President Joseph Garcia. Among the recommendations are the installation of a public address system on the existing campus fire alarm panels and group text messaging services as well as the establishment of a Campus Safety Consultation Working Group.

“All these recommendations represent the absolute commitment of CSU-Pueblo to make our campus as safe as possible for our students, faculty, and staff, while still supporting the open and free exchange of ideas, continual individual and community growth and development, and service to all those served by the University,” said President Garcia.

Garcia said the campus is fortunate to have in place an inter-government agreement supporting a Pueblo County Sheriff’s Office sub-station on campus that provides campus security and has at its immediate disposal all the emergency resources vital to successfully managing a crisis on campus. Rather than less-experienced campus security force having to initiate communications with law enforcement and wait for them to respond to campus, law enforcement already is on-site and is the first responder to any campus incident.

While not usually considered a plus, the distance between the campus and the surrounding residential and commercial development in this case provides a buffer space that will facilitate isolating the campus should a crisis occur. Three main access points to the campus limit access should a lock-down be necessary.

The Crisis Prevention Committee -- led by Provost Russ Meyer and made up of representatives from the Counseling Center, Student Life and Development, Auxiliary Services, Information Technology Services, and the Faculty Senate -- and the Emergency Response Committee -- led by Vice President for Finance and Administration Joanne Ballard and consisting of representatives from the Sheriff’s Office, Facilities Management, External Affairs, Auxiliary Services, Information Technology Services, and the Faculty Senate -- were charged with evaluating the University’s current emergency-related plans and procedures in light of the recent tragedies in several public places and developing recommendations for changes needed to better protect the campus community.

New Emergency Response Systems
The Emergency Response Committee identified two tools as being most effective for communication to the campus community, given the University’s method of providing campus security, the size of the CSU-Pueblo campus, and the size and make-up of the student body.

The existing fire alarm panels in each campus building will be reprogrammed to serve as a public address system that will allow building specific situational announcements to be made from a central command location. Fire alarm panels with this upgraded paging capability will be installed in those few buildings on campus that do not already have them.

Committee chair Joanne Ballard said the committee found this approach most practical because 1) it takes advantage of existing capabilities, 2) allows for announcements in the different campus buildings to be individualized as dictated by any situation, 3) assures that messages reach everyone within hearing distance including students and staff as well as visitors to the campus; and 4) can be implemented and used without requiring action to be taken by anyone other than the University.

One-time funding has been identified to pay for this system upgrade, which will be installed over the summer. This system will be complemented with outdoor announcements using bull horns and the broadcasting capabilities of the Sherriff’s vehicles on campus.

As a complement to this building specific public address system, the University also will purchase a group text messaging services provided by a third party vendor. This service will allow the University to immediately send text messages to pre-registered cell phone numbers. Ballard said this approach works best when combined with an on campus public address system since it allows the university to contact students, faculty and staff who may not be on campus o within hearing range of a public address system.

Students, faculty, and staff will be asked to voluntarily register their cell phone with the service when they return to campus in the fall. All University-issued cell phones will be registered, and employees may voluntarily register their cell phone numbers as soon as the system is functional.

In addition to these new group communication systems, new policies providing the University community direction on what to do in the case of persons of concern, hazardous materials spill, and/or a medical emergency have been issued.

Campus Safety Consultation Working Group
Provost Meyer announced last month the establishment of a Campus Safety Consultation Working Group, whose primary task will be to actively identify, track, and assist individuals who may be exhibiting potential for difficult or threatening behaviors. Because members of this group often are the first to observe those who may be at risk, they will serve as initial contacts for members of the campus community to speak with or e-mail if they have a concern about a student, faculty member, or staff member.

“The intent of these actions is to safeguard the rights and confidentiality of all individuals, help those in need of support or help, and keep the campus community safe,” Meyer said.

The members of the Working Group are

• Fred Stultz, Student Counseling Center, chair
• Barbara Hadley, Counselor Student Counseling Center
• Sgt. Ray DeBiase, Director of Security and Law Enforcement
• LaNeeca Williams, Student Judicial Officer
• Katherine Frank-Dvorsky, English Department
• Tony Montoya, Director Multicultural Center
• Derek Lopez, Director First Year Program
• Chris Dehn, Director Student Health Services
• Greg Thorsten, Counselor, Student Financial Services
• Joe Gallegos, Director of Safety and Environmental Health
• Nicky Damania, Director Student Activities
• Sharon Hatton-Montoya, Director Student Academic Services

When a member of the campus community identifies a potentially dangerous student (via phone, verbal consultation or through a Person of Concern form on the web site), they will contact a member of the Working Group, who will in turn contact others so an evaluation of the concern may be undertaken, along with appropriate action or referral. Action to follow might include offers of help, or referral to the Student Counseling Center, Student Judicial Officer, the Security and Law Enforcement office, or even the Critical Incident Team. The Critical Incident Team will meet on a regular basis to evaluate situations that might pose potential threat to the campus community.

“The University is fully committed to the safety and security of all of our students, faculty, and staff, and this comprehensive approach will assist us both in identifying potential security threats and in providing timely and complete information in the event that a threatening incident occurs,” Garcia said.

Colorado State University - Pueblo is a regional, comprehensive university emphasizing professional, career-oriented, and applied programs. Displaying excellence in teaching, celebrating diversity, and engaging in service and outreach, CSU-Pueblo is distinguished by access, opportunity, and the overall quality of services provided to its students.