Safety Month Culminates in New Technology, Emergency Drill

    With memories of the April massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University still fresh in the national mindset, UCSD highlighted many recent precautionary measures — including 12 new safety towers and an emergency drill to measure and augment emergency response efficiency — during September, as part of “Campus Preparedness Month.”

    Administrators held a kickoff safety expo on Sept. 13 at Price Center, which featured speakers on a wide variety of topics, as well as booths from UCSD and off-campus vendors. Some dealt specifically with the safety of those at UCSD, such as the Campus Emergency Response Team and the UCSD Police Department.

    Others, such as the Red Cross, featured general safety issues such as fire prevention, how to recover financially after a disaster, how to prepare for a terrorist attack and what to do in the event of an auto accident. Other topics, such as various ways to prevent being injured on the job, were geared toward campus employees.

    Many of the vendors showcased security upgrades, such as California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology emergency broadcast system in the form of a marquee, which will notify students in the event of an emergency and give advice on how to proceed. According to Cal-(IT)2 Project Support Coordinator Vanessa Pool, they hope to eventually have them installed in all large lecture halls on campus.

    Another vendor, San Diego-based MIR3, has created an emergency notification system via e-mail, text messaging, phone and pager. In the case of an emergency, those who have signed up will receive notification telling them what the event is, what to do and when the event is over, said Senior Account Executive Ray Gantney.

    The system will call all phone numbers provided by the user three times, or until the user answers the phone. If the user does not pick up after the attempts, the system will send a text message to the user’s cell phone warning him or her that there is an oncampus emergency.

    “The problem with texts is that they’re slower to send, and some cell phone providers charge to receive them,” Emergency Services Manager Phillip Van Saun said.

    Students can volunteer their contact information on the Office of Environmental Health and Safety page of UCSD’s Web site. Van Saun said that more than 3,200 people are currently registered to receive the warnings.

    According to Van Saun, campus police are installing a public address system that will also be connected to police cars. In the event of an emergency, people outside would be able to hear the system’s announcements — a security measure that few college campuses have.

    “The idea is to have redundant ways of reaching people,” Van Saun said.

    Students may also notice the introduction of several new blue emergency boxes on campus throughout Fall Quarter. According to UCSD police Lt. David Rose, the towers are multifunctional safety devices that will broadcast the public notification system, audible within a 1,000-foot radius. Stored within each tower is a security camera that will observe the surrounding area in the case of an emergency. The system can also play a role in expanding wireless access points on campus.

    The two existing towers are currently located on Library Walk and at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, but there should be 10 additional boxes installed at a later date, Rose said.

    Environmental Health and Services Director Steve Benedict said that since the Virginia Tech incident, UCSD has made extra efforts to increase the overall safety of campus.

    In addition, there will be an on-campus drill on Oct. 16, during which members of the San Diego S.W.A.T. unit will play assigned roles in a simulation of a school shooting that mimics the one that took place at Virginia Tech.

    Volunteers will participate in assigned roles as both the shooter and victims, while responders, including hospital, fire and police personnel, will also participate in their respective roles.

    Mock victims will be sent to UCSD Thornton Hospital as part of the drill, although in a real emergency the more severe victims would probably go to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla. All participants will have their own personal scripts to follow, but do not know how others will respond.

    The focus of the drill is to give emergency personnel on campus as well as San Diego city police an opportunity to train their tactical response abilities in the case of a crisis, as well as practice how they would deal with the media in such an event, Van Saun said.

    He denied speculation that the Virginia Tech incident was the only factor motivating the changes, however.

    “The reason is not because something happened at Virginia Tech and we think it will happen here,” he said. “It’s to practice capabilities.”

    However, since this simulation will occur in a controlled environment, students on campus that day will likely not notice any activity out of the ordinary, except for perhaps an increase in the usual amount of police vehicles, Rose said.

    “Our big concern is to make sure it’s not just a show,” Van Saun said. “We want to make sure someone has learned something.”

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