The January arrest of a UL Lafayette alumnus for making threatening Facebook posts toward the university “thwarted a potential threat,” said University Police Chief Joey Sturm. But in the event of an unexpected campus hazard, he explained, UP has the necessary training and resources to act — although the response is a collaborative effort.
“It’s not just police,” Sturm said. “When you have an incident, it’s everyone.”
On the university’s end, emergency preparedness measures rely on officer and faculty training alongside sophisticated technologies.
In 2011, UP partnered with the National Incident Management Systems and Advanced Technologies Institute — NIMSAT — to develop the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Abdalla Hall. The room is fit to ensure telecommunications readiness for more than a dozen officers in times of crisis.
The EOC was last used during Mardi Gras, but it gets most of its use during football season. UP positions itself there “so that the operations center is away from the stadium,” Sturm said. “(We) don’t want to become part of the incident.”
The operations room houses two rows of semi-circled desks that seat specific officers with each a telephone: finance, logistics or public information, for example. A television at the room’s front sits between two projection screens that hang from the ceiling, both of which are cable- and Internet-ready. The room is outfitted with a generator and backup air-conditioning unit in case of power failure.
The center was also operated last year during Hurricane Isaac.
UP’s Mobile Operations Center — a 30-foot bus with the same mobile capabilities as the EOC — was also acquired in 2011. It was financed primarily through grant money, said Sgt. Billy Abrams: an Emergency Management for Higher Education grant for $153,000; a $10,000 grant through NIMSAT; and a $36,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security.
The mobile unit was first deployed a week after its June 2011 arrival in Lafayette after a chemical explosion near the New Iberia Research Center.
“Within an hour, we were set up and working out of the bus,” Sturm said.
A 30-foot camera extended from atop the vehicle and allowed UP to “keep eyes” on the spill until it was contained.
Emergency readiness must be acknowledged on the student end as well, Sturm added, and he urged students to access the emergency preparedness resources available at police.louisiana.edu.
“Our goal is to have zero victimization, zero arrests,” he said. “In order to do that, you have to get people to pay more attention to their surroundings.”
Students should sign up for the university’s Emergency Notifications System (ens.louisiana.edu) and review the university’s Emergency Procedures Guide, which provides bulleted lists on how to handle emergency situations like weather or chemical disasters, or incidents like a kidnapping or bomb threat.
Although men and women confronted with emergency situations typically revert to “flight or fight” mode, Sturm said, the guide offers tips that may be useful in these emergency situations.
During flooding, for example, six inches of quickly moving water can sweep away a human body. In the event of a bomb threat, the guide advises against the use of cellular phones as radio beams can cause detonation.
A FEMA-distributed guide to handling an active shooter situation is also available on UP’s website.
According to the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act — The Clery Act, for short — enforcement agencies are required annually to exercise their emergency preparedness plans. This year, UP plans to execute components of an active shooter exercise. (Practicing the full plan is a labor-intensive feat that costs at least $60,000, Sturm said.)
UP last conducted an active shooter tabletop exercise in June 2011 with almost 100 participants that included faculty members and representatives from Lafayette Utilities System, Cox Communications and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, among others.
An active shooter situation is virtually “active combat” for law enforcement, Sturm said. “It’s as close as you get to warfare.”
Emergency preparedness also involves inter-university cooperation, Sturm said. Louisiana State University Police Chief Lawrence Rabalais joined Sturm Monday afternoon in a discussion on bomb threats on campus.
LSU was evacuated in September 2012 after someone called in the threat to the East Baton Rouge Parish 911 Call Center. The suspect was arrested within 48 hours.
The presentation was part of the first annual Higher Education Law Conference held at the Cecil J. Picard for Child Development and Lifelong Learning.
Student suicide, sexual harassment, social media and the university population and affirmative action in higher education were other topics tackled at the conference.