By Donald Hutchins, Staff Writer
Recent violent incidents nationwide have effectively brought gun violence back into the media limelight, sparking concern for nationwide safety from tragedy; as well as drawing attention to UMF’s crisis management infrastructure.
From the first to the 11th of October, universities in Oregon, Arizona, and Texas saw bloodshed and student death from shooters; and universities in Philadelphia and Georgia were put on high-alert from social media threats of possible violence on their campuses.
In a recent email, Celeste Branham, University VP, discussed the foregoing emergency management training at UMF; stating that an August 8th, 2014 active shooter exercise was admirably executed on-campus involving nearly 150 local law enforcement, hospital, fire, dispatch, school, EMT, and emergency management personnel.
However, officials agreed that more training for students and faculty on-campus was necessary; thus, arrangements were made in August with Maine’s Emergency Management Agency to have consultants engage in Standard Emergency Response Protocol training with all students, faculty, and staff.
Branham also spoke about updating the campus emergency alert system– noting that the on-campus audible siren “does not extend to the far reaches of the campus”. A grant application has been submitted to the Department of Homeland Security, with hopes of getting the necessary funds to upgrade the siren. In the meantime, the siren will still be used if necessary– as well as email, UMF’s website, and the emergency text alert system.
In an interview, students were asked what they would do in the event of an active school shooter at UMF. First-year student Brittany Davis said “I’m not really sure… probably freak out”. Mac Deprey, in his final year at UMF, went in-depth; discussing the important factors involved with response– such as proximity to the incident. “If I am away from [the incident], I’d try and warn as many people as possible to stay away”, he said. If he was at the heart of the incident, Deprey said “I would try and protect as many lives as possible– even if that meant putting myself in harms’ way.”
Peter Osborne, Assistant Career Services Director, in an interview, said he’d follow on-campus lockdown protocol and wait for more instructions from UMF’s emergency text alert system. “I think it’s really important for people to be signed up for the text-alert system,” said Osborne. “That’s where people will get co-ordinated response based on the individual threat.” The alert system operates through text-messaging, informing subscribers of any important information regarding the UMF campus; from class cancellations to other emergencies.
Osborne doubted that students were anxious about a possible shooter at UMF, as did Davis and Deprey. “I just feel safe here,” said Davis. Deprey, though not worried, did elaborate on expecting the unexpected. “I think, while we are extremely safe, w e have to keep it as an open possibility that there are some people who might do things that we don’t approve of.”
In an email interview with Brock Caton, Head of UMF Campus Police, he expressed a similar point of view. “There is no way of predicting when and where an active shooter will occur,” he said. “The university and other area first responders train on this area when we can and revise our respective emergency plans/procedures to always be prepared if one does occur.” Caton elaborated on gun violence stimuli, and ways that it can be combated. “I believe there is a high rate of mental health issues in the State of Maine and not enough mental health services to assist these individuals,” said Caton. “That is where, as a Law Enforcement Officer, I would like to see our state legislature focus on, not gun control laws.”
To sign up for the text alert system and/or to view campus emergency response and directive information, visit the front page of myCampus for full public access– and any further questions can be directed towards campus public safety officials.