THE MAGAZINE

A Campus Response to Crisis

By Gregory Richter

RESPONSE

Typically an incident that is already discussed in university policy such as a fire alarm or intruder on campus would proceed in a predetermined fashion. CRT members would call 911, notify security, evacuate, or lock down—depending on the threat—and return to normal after first responders secure the scene. When unusual incidents or threats arise, the CRT truly shines. In these cases, 911 is called, the campus is secured until emergency responders arrive, and the team assists the first responders. After the incident, the team will meet to debrief and discuss how to prevent this type of problem in the future and make suggestions for appropriate responses and potential policies. 

The CRT is at its strongest when proactively meeting to discuss potential issues and preventing future problems. This allows the team to formulate an action plan. These plans often include engaging the combined services of the CRT, campus security, reception, and other affected university employees. The CRT will often recommend that additional safety precautions be employed such as increasing security officer presence, requesting extra patrols or services from local law enforcement, limiting access to certain buildings, and providing extra services such as the panic button alarms, special parking, or security escorts mentioned earlier. The CRT may also request that student services provide counseling and community assistance information to those in need of such services.

Different CRT members may take the lead depending on the nature of the action plan. For example, while being counseled for poor attendance and failing grades, a student commented to his professor that he was having personal problems outside of school that included “girlfriend problems and money issues” and that he wasn’t “able to focus on anything lately.” He told the professor that “maybe he would be better off dead.” The professor immediately brought this to the attention of a CRT member. The CRT met and formulated an action plan that included the campus president, student services, and the university student outreach counselor. The student was directed to counseling and other community-based services. The student continued to be monitored by the student outreach counselor and is now doing well at home and in school.

Often times the CRT will convene and respond to reports of safety violations, potential conflicts, or even physical security issues such as fire hazards, unauthorized entries, or upcoming special events. It is important that the CRT work in concert and not separately from the campus police or security authority. An example of the CRT working with local law enforcement is when the team assists the police by disseminating crime prevention information on campus or collaborating with the local police, campus security personnel, and campus staff by developing a security plan to be used when the campus hosts a special event.

RECOVERY

Just as important as preparation, training, and response is the recovery process. After an event or incident, the CRT will meet and hold a debriefing. The CRT discusses the effect of the incident and whether the campus community will have difficulty returning to normal operations. The team also addresses what resources may be required for continued response and what support the CRT can give to first responders. The discussion also includes any challenges confronting the organization of the CRT and what lessons can be learned from the event. For example, after a large campus graduation ceremony was held, the CRT debrief included recommendations for additional security, locations where security officers were most needed, and the addition of an emergency command post for future similar events.

One of the most pressing issues confronting academic security professionals is how to provide the safest campus environment and still be fiscally responsible. As public safety and security resources become more limited, it is necessary for institutions to reach out to volunteers to develop cost-effective and innovative techniques to improve campus safety. The CRT finds strength in the fact that it combines the knowledge, commitment, and perseverance from those professionals who are already committed to the institution and to demonstrating the effectiveness of the CRT and are willing to commit even more.


Gregory Richter is Director of Safety and Security, Keiser University. He is a member of ASIS International.

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