Crisis Management Panel Addresses USAC About Event Security and Safety on Campus
Rick Burr, Assistant Chief of Police, alongside a select panel of Vanderbilt administrators trained in crisis management, addressed USAC at its November meeting to discuss protests, demonstrations and other types of events that may lead to unrest and, possibly, violence on campus. The panel included August Washington, Associate Vice Chancellor of Public Safety, Cynthia Cyrus, Vice Provost of Learning and Residential Affairs, Princine Lewis, Senior Strategist for News and Communications and Frank Dobson, Associate Dean of Students.
Burr began by saying that Vanderbilt values and respects the freedom of speech. The purpose of his presentation, he continued, was not to criticize controversial speakers such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Charles Murray and Richard Spencer, but to address the plans and preparations that his department makes for worst case scenarios — its mission being to foster communication and collaboration with the Vanderbilt community to keep all events safe and successful. He emphasized that the Vanderbilt University Police Department (VUPD) exists to serve and protect the Vanderbilt community, and their guests, in a proactive manner. “We are not waiting for a worst case scenario to happen at our campus,” he said.
These are some key facts about VUPD that Burr provided during the presentation:
- VUPD is one of the largest law enforcement agencies in Tennessee
- VUPD operates fully staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
- VUPD is triple accredited (state, national and international) and meets over 800 standards on an annual basis to maintain such accreditation
- VUPD’s communication center is state-of-the-art and soon to be the 2nd accredited communications center in the US
- VUPD utilizes the SafeVU application which allows users to connect with VUPD at any time from their mobile device
- VUPD also utilizes the AlertVU application to alert the the Vanderbilt community of any emergency posing an imminent threat or danger
- VUPD officers complete many drills to practice managing critical situations
- VUPD has a continued relationship with Metro PD, the FBI and Homeland Security
- VUPD manages many events, both small and large, and uses trained canines to detect explosives
After the presentation, Burr invited USAC members to ask questions which were answered by the panel:
How soon do you know when a controversial speaker is coming to campus?
Cynthia Cyrus stressed that their work is relational and that they depend on faculty, staff and students to let them know when events will be occurring on campus. She pointed out that, while protests and demonstrations are not often happy events, students and other members of the Vanderbilt community have always helped to keep them civil. In support of that sentiment, Burr told the Council about a group of students that hosted a celebration of diversity when Milo Yiannopoulos spoke at Vanderbilt as a means of peaceful protest.
What can we do to manage a possible active shooter situation?
August Washington assured the Council that VUPD has procedures and policies in place to contain active shooter situations and that online training is available to anyone interested in learning safety precautions involved with such an event. Burr also pointed out that, because of their targeted jurisdiction and number of officers, VUPD is averaging a 2 to 3 minute incident response time.
What is the role of the CSO?
Burr stated that Community Service Officers are responsible for providing services to the community, such as unlocking their vehicles when their keys are locked inside or assisting with changing a flat tire. He and Washington pointed out that the CSOs also serve as extra eyes and ears for the police officers and that they constitute an additional level of security. Ultimately, a CSO can participate in a feeder program to become a police officer. They can apply for the police academy and, subsequently, VUPD.
What is the contingency plan for internet and/or cell phone service being unavailable during an emergency?
Princine Lewis mentioned that alert systems are backed up, cloud based and non-dependent on campus servers. Washington also pointed out that police officers have speaker systems, sirens and radios in all of their vehicles. Additionally, he said that VUPD is currently working on a campus-wide speaker system.
Since childcare providers at the daycare centers do not have access to their phones, how are they communicated with?
Burr stated that VUPD has already done some collaborating with the child care centers, that there are evacuation procedures in place and that a new child care center director has been tasked with evaluating safety needs. Washington, however, conceded that VUPD does not have all the answers. He urged any department interested in creating an emergency preparedness plan to contact VUPD. He said that VUPD will assist with the process, host a drill/simulation and document the process for that department.
Burr thanked USAC members for their thoughts and input. Washington noted that VUPD is continually finding methods in which to improve safety measures and requested that the Vanderbilt community continue to communicate and collaborate with VUPD to ensure that Vanderbilt receives superior law enforcement service.
For more information, visit the VUPD website
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Learn more about Alert VU security updates and alerts
Featured photo by Daniel Dubois
Panel photo (above) by Carlos Ruiz