March 8, 2013
LIMA ‚?? While school shootings grab headlines, college campus safety stretches much further and needs constant attention, two officials who work closely with school safety said during a visit to Lima Thursday.
‚??Here you might be worried about flooding or tornadoes,‚?Ě said Rick Amweg, director of campus safety and security at the Ohio Board of Regents. ‚??Preparedness for those types of events are just as important as being prepared for the larger, more headline-grabbing events.‚?Ě
Amweg and Rick Baron, executive director of Ohio Homeland Security, were guest speakers at Thursday‚??s Rhodes State College annual dinner.
The event recognizes the service of Rhodes‚?? advisory committee. The committee provides a link between the school and the community and promotes greater cooperation and connection between the two. Rhodes has 27 advisory committees.
While Homeland Security is often linked to the threat of terrorism, Baron said another agency role deals with the protection of infrastructure and key resources and assets. Educational facilities, he said, certainly fall under the country‚??s resources.
College campuses are required by federal law to have emergency plans and to practice those plans yearly. They must also comply with various reporting requirements. Ohio public campuses are doing well in safety areas, Amweg said, and overall preparedness has improved since the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.
The danger, Amweg said, is schools becoming complacent.
‚??You don‚??t see tornadoes every day. You don‚??t see active shooter situations every day. And so it is very easy to kind of fall into that comfort zone, and that can be dangerous,‚?Ě he said. ‚??I think it is important for schools to understand that any of these things could happen at any moment. Part of the preparedness piece is to maintain that diligence and that readiness.‚?Ě
Schools also must link with local first responders, Amweg said. The responders need to understand the campus dynamics and what it means to respond to a campus environment.
‚??That is what will make our campuses safer ultimately, that work between local campuses and local officials,‚?Ě he said.
Rhodes President Debra McCurdy said the school has a good relationship with local first-responders. Rhodes and OSU-Lima fall under one security department. McCurdy said the schools continue to modify and refine policies and practices, including contingency and evacuation plans, emergency procedures and a one-call alert system.
‚??When you put all of that in place, it is really an investment in the people and the infrastructure,‚?Ě she said.
McCurdy said it is key to not just have the policies on a shelf, but to also do training and practice. Schools also have to be concerned about people, specifically having staff and programs in place to deal with mental health issues.
The future of campus security, Baron said, will be aligning with things coming from Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Justice and Secret Service to further enhance school safety.
‚??We will see a move to kind of blur the line between primary, secondary and post-secondary education,‚?Ě Amweg said. ‚??I think what you will see, at least in Ohio, is a move to look at a K-20 move to safety and security. So that we are looking at these overarching programs that apply across the board.‚?Ě