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University Security 101
By John Siehl, CFE
Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, is widely known for its accessibility, an accessibility tied not only to ADA requirements but also to the universityís students, faculty and staff. This accessibility can be construed as an accessibility to all these parties, forming a relationship that binds them to the university as a whole. In the midst of all this, we sitóthe Ervin J. Nutter Center.
I am sure there are many facilities in the nation that also sit within a general campus population. In light of the events of September 11, 2001, and with the overall requirement for a campus to be accessible, how do you accomplish just that? Students, faculty and staff feel they have the right to use a facility as a study room or exercise facility as they would any other building on campus. At the same time as the facility manager, I have the responsibility to ensure the safety of the hundreds or thousands of people who enter any one of our 68 doors on a daily basis. Literally, we are wide open to the general campus population, making us generally wide open to the entire population of the nation, if it so desires. In light of these circumstances, how do we remain accessible yet provide security for everyone?
Yes, students, faculty and staff are issued identification cards for general use at the university. Do we check each and every one of these? No. In the 11 years this facility has been open, we have been charged with administering the scheduling of the facility including practice gyms, weight rooms, and running tracks. In a time of major budgetary cutbacks, this is becoming an increasingly difficult task. With user ďentitlements,Ē we have to maintain an open, friendly facility, yet we are responsible for maintaining a prescribed course of action to ensure the safety of that very same population. Of course, this is relatively easy with special events, one-day events, and controlled access events.
However, the need to serve creates a challenge and increases the complexity of our situations. The longstanding expectation of our freedom to come and go as we please has encouraged us to take a very low profile approach in the routine day-to-day operation but requires extra training for our operations and custodial staffs. Staff members are the stable constant of the population within the facility. As such, they can be effectively used to spot the atypical or extraordinary circumstance. With training, they can be an effective deterrent to everyday theft and vandalism and an agent for security and the publicís safety.
In the stressful times since September 11, these important members of our staff have proven to be key to the stability of the facility. With the open atmosphere of the center and the expectation that everyone has access rights to it, we have found this to be the most effective and cost efficient manner to deal with 24/7 surveillance, if you will, of the facility.
As you can see, facility management has stepped up the awareness factor relating to suspicious or out of the ordinary circumstances. However, as we enter the arena of the special event, we must shift to a much more thorough and demanding mode of operation.
With the events of September 11, our awareness of the need for the publicís safety has intensified. With a concert scheduled just two days after the nationís catastrophe, we were immediately scrambling to garner all the information needed to make a decision about our ability or duty to produce the event. In the end and after much discussion, the concert did not happen.
What did happen, however, was that in just a few short hours, our concept of the direction and scope of our responsibility for the safety of our public and the university was magnified dramatically. As the days went by, we worked intensely with our Department of Public Safety to review our disaster plan and to ensure we had made more than adequate preparation for proper evacuation and disaster planning.
To the universityís credit, our awareness was already heightened several years ago, driven by two factors. First, we are a local American Red Cross emergency facility. This aspect pushed us to work with the national Red Cross, university, and local officials to become fully cognizant of our responsibilities and of our high profile as a public arena.
Second, the Y2K millennium threats and predictions again brought our emergency response plan to the forefront. We have worked closely with local fire and police officials to coordinate the chain of command in the event of any emergency whether natural or man-made.
In our university and surrounding communities, we are all aware of the differing levels of emergencies and the respective officials who must make decisions in times of need. As national and world events change and expand what we have traditionally viewed as local or typical emergency circumstances, and in planning future events such as general admission concerts or other university/community gatherings, we must also expand our capabilities and scope of response.
In any response plan, written plans at your fingertips are crucial and must thoroughly address as many scenarios as possible. In addition, these plans must be backed up by training at all levels, starting at the top. Many formal training sessions are offered throughout the country with the IAAMís International Crowd Management Conference leading the pack. Through personal experience, I have found other sources like the Security and Risk seminar offered by IAEM to augment the competency of my staff (December 4-6, 2001). Another seminar is the Sports Venue Safety and Security Forum (February 20-21, 2002) offered by Sports Division Team, World Research Group.
Locally, we search out as many seminars and training sessions relating to crowd control as possible to add to the training mix of my rank and file supervisors. Some say we have adopted an overkill attitude where the safety of our patrons and employees are concerned. But when things fell apart in September, we didnít have to scramble to come up with a good plan. We already had one in place.
As the year 2002 gets underway, our university will continue to raise the awareness of all its campus departments to the safety needs of students, faculty and staff. As facility managers, our jobs have the additional aspect of the safety of those attending our events. At times that may mean we must help the administration of our universities to understand the far-reaching obligation we assume in the public assembly arena. We must accept this responsibility and obligation by leading the way to safety for our patrons.
John Siehl, CFE, is executive director of the Ervin J. Nutter Center at Wright State University in Dayton, OH.
© 2002 International Association
of Assembly Managers
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