If tragedy were to strike on campus, as it did in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, Keene State College’s Campus Safety Department and the Keene Police Department (KPD) have protocols in place to keep administration, faculty, staff and students safe.
The Assistant Director of Campus Safety Leonard Crossman said there are three main steps to their emergency protocol, but before the protocol can be activated, Campus Safety has to be notified. This can be done by either the Blue Light phones or, he said “Everyone has a cellphone these days…we could be notified by telephone calls to either here or KPD.” Crossman also added that when the Keene Police Department (KPD) gets a phone call Campus Safety is also notified.
Contacting KPD is also the first step in Campus Safety’s protocol for emergency situations, such as an on-campus shooter. “They’re tasked with stopping the person,” said Crossman. “We do more of crowd control and making sure everyone else is safe.”
This task of crowd control involves the second step of the emergency protocol, contacting students, administration, faculty and staff. Crossman said this is done through either sirens or an alert through text or email.
The texts and calls are sent via the KSC Emergency Notification System. This system sends emergency messages to members of the campus community, Crossman said, and they could contain information about the situation such as, “what’s going on, where it’s happening and advice on what to do, such as flee the area or hide.”
KSC senior Emma Simpson has been signed up to receive emergency notifications throughout her time here at KSC. “A few times, it’s been an alert about something suspicious that turned out to not be a big deal, but I think it’s better to be safe than sorry in those kinds of situations,” Simpson said.
Campus community members can register to receive emergency notifications by going to keene.notifypanel.com and clicking “Create New Account.”
Campus Safety can also get an emergency message out quickly by using the siren on the top of the Spaulding Gymnasium. The siren is tested twice a year to make sure it works in the event of an emergency and can both emit an alarm and provide verbal instructions and information. The siren has been used in the past to alert students of a potentially violent person off-campus and also to warn students of incoming severe weather.
After students and faculty are warned, the next step, according to Crossman, is to lock the campus down. “Everything is connected to Campus Safety,” said Crossman. “We can flip a switch and everything’s locked so we don’t have officers running around manually locking all the buildings.”
Although KSC does have an emergency system in place, Crossman added, “Preventing these incidents can be more important than responding.”
KSC has several ways of preventing violence on campus.
To begin with, the Dean of Students Gail Zimmerman is involved in assessing threats to the campus community. “First and foremost, we have what we call the CARES team,” said Zimmerman. “There is an online referral form; anyone in the community who has a concern about a student, and you’ll see on the form there’s academic concerns, physical concerns [and] emotional concerns, they can fill that form out and submit it. Those come directly to me.”
Zimmerman said she reviews the referrals, but added, “It’s not meant for emergency situations… 911 types of situations need a 911 call. The forms are reviewed when the come in, but not on a 24/7 basis.”
There are several natures of concerns, such as faculty members reporting when students suddenly stop showing up for class. Zimmerman also receives concerns that are more on an emotional level, such as if “somebody submits a referral because a student has made some kind of statement about self harm or threat to others and/or exhibited some behaviors that indicate emotional distress.” When Zimmerman receives referrals such as those, she responds to many of them herself and reaches out to the student.
“If there is a significant safety concern,” continued Zimmerman, “then we also have a policy on campus called the Mandated Safety Assessment.” Zimmerman added when students make statements or exhibit behaviors that may suggest self-harm or harm to others “they are called in to meet with me, and then we require that they meet with a counselor for a safety assessment and with one of our nurse practitioners in the Center for Health and Wellness for a safety assessment. I’ve been here, now, since 2009, and in that time period, I can think on three incidents where we had a concern of threat to others.”
Simpson affirmed the need for safety protocols, “I think it’s important to have that system in place in regards to active shooter situations because of the issue of gun violence that plagues our country.”
According to a New York Times article from 2016, “Comparing Gun Deaths by Country: The U.S. Is in a Different World,” the United States has significantly more gun violence than many other advanced countries such as Germany, Austria, England, Poland, China, Japan and the Netherlands. The article, written by Kevin Quealy and Margot Sanger-Katz, said, “In a nation where the right to bear arms is cherished by much of the population, gun homicides are a significant public health concern. For men 15 to 29, they are the third-leading cause of death.”
Although New Hampshire has an open carry law for weapons, Zimmerman pointed out that “We have a weapons policy on campus. They are not allowed on campus.” If a student is found having a weapon on campus, even in their rooms, “The weapon is confiscated and is held at Campus Safety until the student can take it off campus.”
When it comes to keeping students safe on and around campus, Zimmerman said, “We always encourage our students to be mindful of their surroundings and aware of safety issues, not walking out late alone.” Not only should self-safety be practiced, but Zimmerman added, “If you see something, say something. Report.”
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