Campus emergency response plan is well published, but many still unaware

Matthew Gromala, Reporter

Freshman communications major Katie Canavan said she was ruffling through papers stashed among her belongings when she came across the university’s emergency response plan.

“I had no idea what the school’s safety plan was. I found it in my dorm while we were de-tripling and read it,” Canavan said.

Some professors said they are also unaware of the policies.

“No, I have no idea,” said Thomas Simko, adjunct professor in the English department. Doug Martin, adjunct professor in the communications department, also said he did not know what to do in an emergency situation.

Emergency response plans are taking on greater importance because the incidence of school shootings, while still uncommon, have been on the rise on both high school and college campuses. Since the Sandy Hook elementary school shootings, there have been 74 shooting incidents, 15 of which involved an active shooter inside or near a school.

Robert Zavada, Associate Director of Campus Safety, said the university regularly distributes the Emergency Response Safety Reference Guide,  and officials provide the information in multiple ways.

“If you reside on-campus as a student, a document is placed in your room, as well as given to students with a parking permit. We try to get it out to everyone. It’s a lot of safety information in a nutshell, listing what you need to know. There is information in it for various situations. They’re not ranked, since you never know what will happen. But they’re there.”

The guide is also available online, on E-MU, under the Campus Safety tab. The university also issues a Campus Safety Handbook each year, which provides an “Emergency Notification/Response” section in addition to general safety information and campus safety statistics.

Paul Nardone, Faculty Service and Assessment Coordinator said that adjunct member should also be well informed of the university’s policies.

“Adjunct faculty members, when starting here, number one, go through an orientation, that covers everything –  Student Success Center, CAPS and safety procedures. We also put the campus safety procedures on the adjunct portal. All of it is out there. We also send out targeted announcements to make them aware of situations. It is covered in orientation and continues through in targeted announcements and on the portal,” said Nardone.

Nardone  added that non-traditional adjunct professors get the same information as those who work in the traditional classroom.

“A lot of our adjuncts also teach in alternate formats, off-campus and online, for example. For those folks, they still receive the information the same as on-campus adjuncts,” said Nardone.

Full-time professors interviewed for this story knew more information about the safety plan than part-time, or adjunct, professors, and faculty knew much more than students.

”The university’s academic policy requires us to have one person in class with a cell phone on to receive alerts. In my classes, I keep my phone on,” said Joseph Curran, religious studies professor.

Rebecca Black, history department professor, said the guide explains all necessary safety instructions.  She keeps it in her desk for easy reference.

President Thomas Botzman said officials regularly review emergency plans during “table top” sessions, which are meeting in which officials  run through different emergency situations to evaluate their decisions. These have not yet taken the form of campus-wide simulations similar to a fire drill.

Botzman said one recent change to the safety plan was the addition of road signs and names. Officials also gave each building an address. “This was to aid emergency response so [responders] now have addresses to get exactly where they need to go, as opposed to just on campus itself,” said Botzman.

The Emergency Response Safety Reference Guide includes procedures to follow in the event of a “Hostile Intruder,” which include contacting and Campus Safety. It advises people to remain calm, lock doors and windows and follow all instructions by law enforcement and campus safety.  The guide also mentions that at no time should an attempt be made to apprehend or approach the intruder.

The guide also covers instructions for a lockdown situation, which break down the type of lockdown into levels of severity and provide information on what to do in those instances as well.

The  Campus Safety Handbook states that in the event of a serious incident, the university has various emergency notification systems in place to communicate information. These include e-mails, text messaging, public address and a siren.

The University will post updates during a critical incident on the MU web site at www.misericordia.edu and www.twitter.com/misericordia.edu .

Zavada asks students to stay vigilant at all times while on campus. “The biggest thing for keeping the campus safe is if a student sees something that’s not right, say something. Please call Campus Safety.”