Kennesaw State University officials respond to the Virginia Tech tragedy‚ focus on enhancing campus security

Kennesaw State University officials are responding on multiple fronts to the tragic shootings that took place at Virginia Tech on Monday‚ expressing their condolences for the many lives lost in the deadly shootings‚ and taking steps to address the university’s ability to ensure the safety of KSU students‚ faculty and staff.“We express our deepest condolences to our colleagues at Virginia Tech‚” President Daniel S. Papp stated. “This is a very sad time in higher education‚ and in our history as a nation‚ because of the tragic loss of life that has been experienced on the Virginia Tech campus. Our hearts and prayers go out to all of those families who have lost their loved ones in this tragedy.”(For the complete story‚ please click on the headline above.)

Georgia (Apr 17, 2007) — Kennesaw State University officials are responding on multiple fronts to the tragic shootings that took place at Virginia Tech on Monday‚ expressing their condolences for the many lives lost in the deadly shootings‚ and taking steps to address the university’s ability to ensure the safety of KSU students‚ faculty and staff.

“We express our deepest condolences to our colleagues at Virginia Tech‚” President Daniel S. Papp stated. “This is a very sad time in higher education‚ and in our history as a nation‚ because of the tragic loss of life that has been experienced on the Virginia Tech campus. Our hearts and prayers go out to all of those families who have lost their loved ones in this tragedy.”

PREVENTION AND PREPARATION

As news of Monday’s developments unfolded‚ President Papp immediately directed the university’s cabinet to address the aftermath and implications of the Virginia Tech shootings‚ to assess the university’s present emergency preparedness and communications capabilities‚ as well as any needed improvements.

Prior to Monday’s horrific acts at Virginia Tech‚ campus officials already had taken key steps to avert such a tragic scenario from occurring on the KSU campus‚ or to enhance the university’s ability to respond effectively in the event of such an unfortunate scenario.

KSU’s Department of Public Safety is working integrally with KSU administrators to expand the university’s capabilities to expediently respond to a similar incident if it were to occur here on campus‚ said Ted Cochran‚ director of the department.

While KSU has mass e−mail capabilities to inform the campus about emergencies‚ a key point of discussion is introducing new technologies to communicate with the KSU community through the use of “mass notification systems.” In addition to currently deployed e−mail blasts‚ these new systems would allow KSU officials to inform the campus community via cell−phone−blast text messages‚ land−line telephone−voice−mail blasts‚ pagers and other communications systems about emergencies that require immediate protective action to be taken – including human−caused and natural disasters.

Such systems’ hardware and software will be housed off−campus‚ so that if campus infrastructure is damaged‚ the systems could still send out emergency notifications‚ said Kemper Anderson‚ assistant director of KSU’s Department of Public Safety.

Other options being explored include a “civil−defense type siren system‚” which would broadcast campus wide to signal an emergency in progress.

In addition to addressing current and proposed tactics to effectively communicate emergency situations on campus‚ KSU officials also are focused on the preparedness of the university’s law enforcement and security operation.

Kennesaw State has a strong preventive police presence on campus‚ with 26 certified and sworn police officers who are well−trained to exercise their judgment to mitigate crimes on campus.

In fact‚ after Monday’s shootings were publicized through the national news media‚ KSU’s police officers were dispatched to high−traffic areas of campus‚ where large numbers of students‚ staff and faculty congregate‚ according to Kemper Anderson. “They were dispatched to those areas in order to have a visible presence‚ to answer questions from the campus community and to help provide a sense of security‚” he stated.

On another preventive front‚ KSU officials also ensure compliance with the state of Georgia’s “no guns” policy on campus‚ which is strictly enforced by the university’s police department. The statute (O.C.G.A. 16−11−127.1) prohibits the carrying or possession of weapons on any school campus‚ including colleges and universities.

Additionally‚ security cameras are in place at key‚ strategic areas on campus where there is high−volume student traffic‚ such as the Student Center‚ the bookstore‚ library and parking decks. These cameras are monitored diligently by KSU police.

Despite these preventive strategies‚ KSU officials recognize that shootings such as those that occurred Monday in Virginia‚ unfortunately‚ may not be totally preventable. Therefore‚ KSU’s police also are trained and appropriately prepared to react should such an unfortunate incident of that magnitude occur here on campus.

All of KSU’s 26 sworn police officers annually receive eight hours of “force−on−force active shooter training” to deal with situations like the one that occurred on the Virginia Tech campus. A sergeant assigned to each shift of officers receives an additional four to six hours of training to handle the long−range patrol rifle that is assigned to each unit. Two other officers per shift also are trained to handle intermediate−range shot guns‚ which also are used to respond to such incidents.

Before the 1999 shooting tragedy at Columbine High School in Colorado‚ it was standard for campus police to call in local‚ off−campus law enforcement officers to surround the perimeter and manage an active incident‚ having campus police officers await special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams. Since the Columbine tragedy‚ it is now standard practice for campus police forces‚ including KSU’s‚ to be trained to go to the scene of the threat to immediately “neutralize” the situation — reducing the potential for loss of life during the first critical moments. “Force−on−force” firearms training is shaped to simulate real−life situations in order to give officers the advanced capabilities they need to handle such crises. In addition to this training‚ KSU officials are exploring ways to expand urban assault training for the university’s police force.

Anderson said the KSU police department also has a very strong relationship with the Cobb County Police Department‚ which provides assistance during emergency situations‚ in addition to other local police and fire departments. Staff from KSU’s Counseling‚ Advising‚ & Program Services (CAPS)‚ also are trained to respond and assist police in emergency situations involving individuals who are mentally ill.

Also‚ in January‚ President Papp approved the creation of a new position‚ an assistant vice president for strategic security and safety‚ which will be charged with addressing all issues relevant to ensuring a safe and secure campus climate – ranging from law enforcement to information technology security. The new appointee‚ Robert Lang‚ will join the university in May‚ reporting to KSU Vice President of Operations Randy Hinds. This position will bring a strategic administrative focus to campus safety and security.

STAYING SAFE

After Monday’s shooting incident in Virginia‚ KSU police also are responding to requests from faculty members and others to address personal safety on campus.

Cochran and Anderson offered important advice to students‚ faculty‚ staff and other members of the KSU community in order to help prevent tragedies from ever occurring on campus.

The most important piece of advice is to pay attention to your surroundings‚ Anderson said.

That sounds simple‚ yet in an age where people walk around with cell phones constantly placed at their ears or are engaged in other distracting activities‚ it is important that citizens are aware of what is going on around them‚ Anderson said.

Perhaps most importantly for students who live on campus‚ is to be extremely mindful of who is provided access into the residence halls. Students should err on the side of caution‚ placing safety above courtesy.

The second−most important piece of advice is to let police know if anything suspicious is happening on campus.

Suspicious activities should be reported to the police‚ who will investigate. The public can contact KSU police by calling 770−423−6666‚ using any one of the emergency telephone kiosks across campus. The kiosks are brown−gray‚ metal rod−like fixtures with a light at the top and are marked “EMERGENCY” in letters arranged vertically on the sides. Additionally‚ the public can e−mail tips to the police department’s command staff (listed at www.kennesaw.edu/police) or call the confidential tipster line at 770−423−6305.

With the help of aware and vigilant students‚ faculty and staff‚ the police will be further enabled to keep a tragedy from happening here.

“If we all work together to keep our ears to the ground‚ we do have a shot at stopping something like this from happening here at KSU‚” Cochran said.

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Other safety tips are available from the KSU police through the department’s “Safe and Sound” publication at Public Safety headquarters on campus‚ or online at www.kennesaw.edu/police.


LEARN MORE:

For more about steps you can take to help make Kennesaw State University a safe place to learn‚ work‚ live and play‚ visit the KSU Police Department’s Web site at www.kennesaw.edu/police.

To contact the Kennesaw State University police department‚ call 770−423−6666.






A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.

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