FROM THE CHANCELLOR
Emergency planning is a proactive mission
Sixteen months ago something unconscionable happened at Virginia Tech University when a student gunman killed 32 people. The cataclysm challenged all of American higher education to re-examine campus safety and emergency communications. The University of Colorado at Boulder was no exception. Soon after this event the Emergency Communications Systems Task Force studied how our campus responds to emergencies and how we could improve our emergency communications.
One of the recommendations put forth by the task force was an emergency text message notification system. It was implemented just before the first day of classes last fall and very quickly thereafter proved both useful and effective, allowing us to notify students, faculty and staff in less than 25 minutes of a campus emergency.
The CU Alert system allows us to notify the campus community of emergencies with the immediacy of cell-phone text messages. A software update will allow us to add voice messaging to the mobile-phone alerts later this fall. The service is free and I highly encourage you to sign up at cuconnect.colorado.edu or CU-Boulder Campus Alerts.
Today, 13,600 people have been proactive and have taken the time to sign up so that they can receive campus emergency alerts, about 35 percent of the campus community. That’s a start but we would like to see much higher participation. It is one step you can take to be as informed as possible. CU Alert takes just minutes to notify campus subscribers in the event of a crisis.
CU Alert is supplemented with a reverse 9-1-1 system to campus phones, email notification and Web postings. While not as immediate as the text-message alerts, university community members may also call 303-492-INFO or 303-735-INFO for updates on emergencies, blizzards or school-closing information.
When it comes to campus safety, our work is never done and we are continuing to examine ways to enhance safety and security. We are now reviewing additional safety options and a follow-up task force report is due in October.
Under review now are:
Last fall we revised our employee background-check policy requiring criminal history checks for all new faculty and staff, current employees who are promoted or transferred, and some student hires.
CU-Boulder also has several longstanding safety measures in place. Our full-service campus police department commissioned by the City of Boulder and the State of Colorado employs 40 full-time officers who patrol the campus 24 hours a day, seven days a week. CU Police can remotely activate electronic locking systems on several academic and administrative buildings in the event of an emergency lockdown. Facilities Management staff are able to shut down building ventilation systems if there is a hazardous chemical release. And we have regular exercises to prepare for various scenarios.
Residence halls are locked from the outside 24 hours a day, seven days a week except for the main entrances and only students who are hall residents are permitted entrance. I encourage students to be aware of who is following them through the door and be conscientious about allowing strangers to enter without an escort.
More than 50 emergency blue-light phones across the campus connect callers directly to campus police to report crimes in progress, suspicious persons, medical emergencies or personal safety concerns. CU NightRide (303-492-7233) offers free nighttime escorts to students, faculty and staff within Boulder city limits.
The first line of safety starts with each of us as individuals. CU-Boulder Police list several steps you can take to protect yourself, your colleagues and your fellow students. Some of their tips include: Be alert to your surroundings, avoid needless confrontations, negotiate conflicts peacefully, don’t allow unfamiliar people into residence halls, use the buddy system when out at night and be aware that alcohol can blur your judgment. For more tips please visit the Campus Safety website.
Safety is paramount on our campus and it deserves constant attention. Here’s wishing each of you health and safety as we embark on a new academic year.
A bimonthly publication produced by the Department of University Communications
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