THE MAGAZINE

A Campus Response to Crisis

By Gregory Richter

One typical sunny afternoon in south Florida in 2013, a man entered the administration building of a private university. The man walked straight by the receptionist, announcing the name of the university employee he came to see and emphatically stating that the woman was his wife. The receptionist was concerned by the man’s demeanor. She noted that he was not wearing an employee ID and had not stopped to obtain a visitor’s badge. The receptionist called security and told them the employee’s name. Security contacted the employee, who informed them that she was in the midst of a divorce and that her husband was both verbally and physically abusive. Security called the police.

For many universities, the story would end there. But security’s second call was to the university’s Campus Response Team (CRT). The team was notified by radio and all team members in the administration building placed the facility in lockdown until the campus was cleared by security and by the police. After the police arrived, they escorted the man from university property without incident.

The entire CRT met immediately after the incident to formulate an action plan. The plan included partnering with security and police for extra patrols around the administration building. The CRT disseminated the husband’s photo and description to all reception areas and security personnel. A trespass warning was posted on campus to warn staff and students that the man was banned from campus property. The CRT provided extra safety measures to the university employee, including a panic button alarm, a parking space close to her workplace entrance, and a security escort to and from her car. The employee was also referred to counseling and support services, as well as to a community-based support program. The CRT followed up with the employee at regular intervals to determine whether more assistance was required. After these interventions, the employee obtained a legal no-contact order against her estranged husband, and she has not required additional university support since.

This type of incident, which threatens the safety and security of a campus, occurs almost daily at the more than 4,100 colleges and universities in the United States. To be prepared for these emergencies, respond correctly, and recover quickly, the university developed a security and safety plan that includes players from local emergency services, contract campus security officers, and staff and faculty of the university. Well-trained players from law enforcement, fire and rescue, and campus security are commonplace in academic settings. What makes this safety model special is the addition of existing professionals drawn from staff and faculty that comprise the CRT. This combined relationship has proven to make the university environment safer and has been cost effective.

The CRT also helps the university comply with federal laws. For example, the team improves campus compliance with the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act. The team also helps the campus embrace the concepts of the National Incident Management System, which helps agencies work together in crisis management. The team is proactive, pragmatic, cost-effective, and an extension of the overall educational mission.

The CRT is an integral part of the campus violence prevention program. The CRT implements important parts of the violence prevention plan, such as disseminating clear policies, promoting threat awareness, providing rapid response, and aiding in recovery.

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