CCUPCA Conference Tackles Critical Incident Response

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Whenever a major incident strikes on a campus, be it a natural disaster, a chemical explosion in the lab or a school shooting, critical incident response and crowd control will most likely be a challenge. On the one hand, campus officials must deal with all of the students, faculty and staff. Moreover, it is important for campus safety to be aware of the media and outside emergency responders.

Thus, during the annual California College and University Police Chiefs Association (CCUPCA) conference April 9-11, it seemed fitting that Rich Thomas, partner at Thomas Consulting, and Richard McCoy, parking manager at Virginia Tech, spoke to campus officials to discuss how to plan for such occurrences and keep everything running smoothly.

Involve Students in Incident Response
During the “Critical Incident Response: Post Problem Solving Workshop,” Thomas discussed key strategies when dealing with violent events on campus. He believes campus safety officials should plan ahead for the possibility that a significant incident could occur. “It is critical [to plan],” Thomas explained. “If you wait until after the fact when you’re in the middle of a crisis, you’ll make mistakes that you can otherwise avoid.”

Thomas suggested five strategies in dealing with violence prevention:

  • Developing a consultant assessment team (CAT)
  • Training staff and faculty
  • Training students
  • Enhancing intelligence efforts
  • Developing a protection policy

Per Thomas, when developing a CAT, there should be two teams – one made up of students and faculty and another consisting of staff. The group made up of employees, which should include members of the campus police, counseling services and other departments, should meet monthly to discuss current and future plans.

Students are vital in helping during an emergency. “The better informed they are about campus safety issues, the less often they’ll run the potential of being a victim,” Thomas revealed. If students are aware of how to handle certain situations, it will enable them to prevent acts of violence.

Campuses Must Manage the Media When a Crisis Occurs
McCoy discussed handling media outlets when disasters strike. He brought up examples from the April 16, 2007 shooting on his campus, and how he and his staff handled the large amount of press, as well as those entering and exiting the parking lot areas.

McCoy maintained that there must be a parking plan known to all campus officials; it should not be limited to parking services. The media should know of this plan as well so they are aware of where they can and cannot go.

In one of his examples, McCoy discussed how large vehicles block areas that need to be accessed by others. “When [satellite trucks] set up [their equipment], not only do they take all the room for the truck but all of the equipment,” he stated.

McCoy urged communication between all campus safety groups, as well. When there is support from all, it makes it easier for the campus to stay organized during an emergency.

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