University updates emergency management plans
By Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
From elementary schools to large universities, all campuses can be vulnerable to an active shooter, deadly storm or other threat to community security.
Grand Canyon University’s Department of Public Safety recently increased its staff to 108, adding dozens of new officers to cover the fast-growing ground campus and other GCU sites and nearly tripling its numbers from two years ago. With the added manpower, the University also is developing new plans to coordinate the entire campus community in case of a serious emergency through evacuations, emergency text message alerts, public address sirens and other tools.
GCU hired Rob Kuhn, a 20-year Phoenix Police veteran, as senior emergency management specialist to help develop a campus plan outlining the roles of GCU staff during emergencies. Kuhn is finalizing that document, which updates the University’s existing emergency management plans.
“It basically outlines everyone’s role,” said Kuhn, who patrolled and investigated crimes in west Phoenix for most of his career before joining GCU.
“When there is an emergency we don’t want people to ask what their responsibilities are,” Kuhn said. “That’s not the time to learn that. Part of the reason for this plan is so that we’re prepared for this type of event.”
Emergency preparedness is not something that happens overnight. GCU incrementally has adjusted its public safety efforts over the past few years to keep pace with growth in campus enrollment and grounds expansion.
In the past two years, GCU has enhanced its Public Safety dispatch center to ensure accurate handling of requests for service, added a mandatory two-week law enforcement training academy for new officers, developed an online crime reporting tool and significantly overhauled how officers handle the flow of traffic around campus.
Text message alerts, PA sirens reach wide audience
Additionally, GCU established an emergency text message alert system to provide information to students and staff in real time. Since its launch in fall 2012, the Rave emergency alert system has been used only a few times — including to announce the cancellation of classes because of the inclement weather on Sept. 8, and to warn the GCU community to be aware of a scam in which a woman who claimed she needed help jump-starting her car would lure people into a nearby apartment complex where some were robbed.
Complete information about the Rave emergency alert system, online crime-tips reporting and other safety information is available at Public Safety’s website. Signing up for Rave is simple. Students’ mobile phone numbers already have been entered into the system, but they must log in to activate their accounts and receive text alerts.
Faculty and staff also must register to receive the alerts. An account is established using the same credentials for Campus Vue, LoudCloud, Angel or a GCU computer.
Rich Oesterle, who oversees campus development, said the emergency public address sirens have been tested and are ready to be used in case of an emergency as significant as an active shooting. If the sirens are used, GCU students and employees will hear the alert, which indicates the need to stay in their buildings and await word from authorities. The system also can broadcast prerecorded messages.
Safety Awareness Week comes to campus
Beginning Monday, GCU will host its annual Safety Awareness Week programs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily at various sites on campus. Information will be available all week on the Promenade by the Student Union.
Events include a simulation for students in which they experience what driving intoxicated looks and feels like and other sessions that address substance abuse, property crimes and domestic violence, among others. Agencies scheduled to visit campus include the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and the Phoenix Police and Fire departments.
Public Safety’s Angie Garcia, who’s organizing the event for GCU, said events like Safety Week educate the public about available resources and help people understand how to address crime or threats to their well-being.
“Of course as Public Safety we try to keep them as safe as possible, but they do have to be proactive about protecting themselves,” Garcia said.
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 602-639-7030 or [email protected].