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poor showing

After all the shootings, how is it possible that some schools still don't get it?

 - 
Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Despite all the school shootings and all the focus on improving security at our nation's colleges and universities, apparently there are still some schools who are frighteningly unprepared for a campus incident.

I was rather stunned after reading this Washington Post article regarding a shooting at Northern Virginia Community College last fall.

A student walked into a classroom with a .30-06 rifle in December and fired two shots at his instructor. Fortunately, he missed and just sat down and waited for police to arrive. No one was injured in this incident.

After the shooting, the school issued a review of the incident. Obviously, it's difficult for school authorities to prevent this type of incident from happening, but the review found the response to the incident was, quite frankly, embarrassing to the school as well as to the educational security community:

Campus police responding to an active shooter on the campus in Woodbridge last fall did not have floor plans or master keys to enter rooms or buildings, and 36 of the 45 security cameras on campus were not working, according to internal reports the college has release

I can't understand how the police didn't have keys to the building. That just seems ridiculous. And, not having properly functioning video cameras? I can understand one or two not working, but only having nine out of 45 functioning? This is basic stuff, people.

Apparently, the school was in the process of installing a mass notification system, but it wouldn't have mattered if they had had one or not because the report found that "officers were too busy to activate emergency alerts to the campus community. It also noted that 'the campus was not prepared to immediately issue emergency alerts' and that the 'limited access and functionality' of the security cameras 'made situational awareness difficult.'"

Not enough time to issue a notification? Well, that could be because there doesn't appear to be a proper security administration structure in place. One of the report's recommendations was that the school should consolidate security responsibilities (hence, the security director title we know and love here at SDN).

The commission report notes that business managers on each of the college's six campuses are also the designated emergency response coordinators, and suggested that they have limited time to focus on security and probably have insufficient training. "The college needs to clarify organizational responsibilities," the report concluded.

But, despite all the rather damning findings from the report, administrators are apparently defending their response:

John Dever, the college's executive vice president for academic and student services, chaired the commission. He said the college took many security steps after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, "and all of that was severely tested on Dec. 8. In many ways, we came through well," particularly in communication with Prince William police. He said the commission recommended strengthening mental health treatment and coordination among campus emergency responders.

Let's pull it together, people. We know better.