Campus security reacts to shootings
Kaitlynn Riely, Aaron Steiner and Ken Fowler | Thursday, April 19, 2007
Notre Dame has procedures in place to respond to major incidents and crises, but the University is not commenting on most specifics of those plans, officials said Wednesday.
Nationwide, universities have been asked about – and have offered self-evaluations of -emergency protocols in the aftermath of Monday’s mass slayings at Virginia Tech University. A lone gunman apparently shot and killed two students in a dorm on the Blacksburg, Va., campus two hours before opening fire and killing 30 more people in one of the school’s academic buildings half a mile away.
“Suffice it to say, that plans do exist,” University spokesman Don Wycliff said. “They are constantly being reviewed in light of the Virginia Tech experience, and we would be [foolish] if we do not attempt to review those plans.”
Wycliff said he expects Notre Dame to comment on campus security plans in the future, but he couldn’t give an exact date.
Notre Dame Security/Police (NDSP) Director Phil Johnson declined to comment on NDSP’s procedures for crisis management plans and referred all questions to University representatives in the Office of News and Information.
Wycliff declined to comment on what offices have the authority to lock down buildings or entire portions of campus in the event of an emergency. He would not say if the University has a campus broadcasting system it could use to transmit emergency messages to faculty, students and staff.
But Gordon Wishon, the University’s chief information officer, said Notre Dame has been looking into the possibility of compiling a database of cellular phone numbers to send text messages to in the event of a campus emergency.
Wishon said the University is preparing to launch a pilot program of the text messaging system, and it will test the service throughout the remainder of this semester and summer. He said the University expects to have this service fully ready by the fall.
He said the discussions and plans received more attention and support when Notre Dame eliminated standard telephone lines in each dorm room in 2006.
“We began exploring that some time ago … realizing that the primary mode of communication for college students is cell phones,” Wishon said of the text messaging plan.
Wishon noted that the University added voicemail service and each student is given a voicemail number, but officials believed they needed to look into other methods of communication in case of a crisis.
“We knew that wouldn’t work in case of an emergency,” Wishon said.
In addition to the text messaging plan, Wishon said the Office of Information Technology has looked into and is investigating the possibility of voice messages and video messages – available through e-mails or from a Web site – as well as the idea of utilizing the closed-circuit television system on campus for public service announcements.
Wishon said the University is looking into the possibility of broadcasting an emergency tone on Notre Dame’s 10 reserved cable channels to alert the University community of any emergencies if it deemed it necessary.
“The bottom line is that we are looking for as many ways as we can to communicate with students, as well as staff and faculty, in an emergency or crisis situation,” he said. “As terrible as Monday’s tragedy is, the administration here at the University has been working to refine its crisis management plan for some time.”
Wishon said the work to “refine” and review crisis management plans was organized and initiated by the Office of the President.