Reprinted here in its entirety.
|UPD officers move through Forney Hall, searching
for a shooter, during this summer’s active shooter training. Photo Special to
For the last few years, Jacksonville State University has been preparing for the
worst – from storms to power outages, everything from natural disasters to an
incident at the chemical weapons incinerator. With the two shooting incidents
earlier this year at Virginia Tech and Delaware State, their preparations now
include the possibility of an active shooter.
“We’ve been doing training for the last three years as part of a preparedness
measure that had to do with weather as well as any possible chemical incident
that could occur at the Anniston Army Depot,” said JSU President Dr. William
Meehan. “We realize that what happened at Virginia Tech could occur at JSU or
any other college campus at any time.”
At Meehan’s request, the JSU University Police Department held two training
sessions last week to inform faculty and staff of the new Emergency Operations
Plan, still in its draft form, for the university.
The training is currently voluntary and Meehan hesitates to make it mandatory
for his staff and faculty, hoping they will realize the importance of knowing
what to do in an emergency and voluntarily attend.
Melonie Carmichael, the new emergency management specialist for UPD, is
behind the new emergency plan and led the training on Sept. 26 and 27.
“Since I’ve been here, the first thing I did was a survey,” said Carmichael,
detailing how she asked the executive team as well as building managers, faculty
and staff what their emergency plan was. She found a disparity between those who
said there was a plan and those who didn’t. “That’s just a lack of communication
right there. We’ve got to close that gap and make sure everybody knows what’s
She led the faculty and staff present through a list of potential threats at
JSU, ranking them by their likelihood of occurrence.
Everything from a storm knocking out power and the danger that could pose to
delicate experiments or computer programs to the potential for a hazardous
material spill on either Highway 204 or 21 was discussed.
“The winter storm of ’93 we all remember. It knocked out a lot of power for a
couple of weeks,” said Carmichael. “That is something every department has got
to prepare for, if you lose power for more than a couple of days or more than a
couple of hours, you have to think about that.”
Carmichael is working to make JSU “Storm Ready,” following guidelines
established by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Association. There are
only 18 schools nationwide with the distinction, none in Alabama.
“With all of your help we can get Jax State on there – be the first ‘Storm
Ready’ school [in Alabama],” said Carmichael.
Lightning, tornados and flooding are all problems associated with severe
thunderstorms and each can be fatal to those caught out in the storm.
“If you hear thunder, you shouldn’t be outside,” said Terry Schneider, of the
University Police Department. “Lightning can strike up to 10 miles in front of a
Schneider gave the group present his own rule of thumb on how to stay safe
while driving on flooded streets – if you can’t see the curb, turn around.
“Flooding kills more people than any other weather phenomena in the United
States,” said Schneider.
Most people who attend or work at JSU will see few, if any, winter storms
during their time at the university, but the school makes sure it is prepared
No matter the situation, if there is a threat of inclement weather, local
television and radio stations will have closing or postponement information to
pass on to their audiences. The information should also be available on the JSU
After the Virginia Tech shootings, JSU created its own task force to
determine a course of action should a similar incident occur there.
Part of the decision-making process has been in revisiting the Columbine High
School shootings of 1999. At that time, standard procedure was for law
enforcement to secure the perimeter and wait for SWAT. Now, the procedure is for
the first responders to go in and keep moving as long as the shooter is firing.
“Every time that gun goes off, somebody dies. So we’re going to move real
quick when the gun goes off,” said Schneider.
JSU is also working on identifying potential problems early. An intervention
committee has been established to take complaints made by students and faculty
and gather information on the student or faculty member in question.
“We want to get a hold of potential problems early and in this case it’s
individuals. We want to identify them early, we want to get inside their
operational cycle, inside their mind, and find out what their potential is. What
is their potential lethality?” said Schneider.
They find out if the person has a gun, if they have a criminal record and
they talk to them to determine any potential psychological problems.
If anyone becomes concerned about the behavior of a student or faculty member
they should notify their dean or head of department immediately. It is up to the
dean or department head to relay the problem to the intervention committee.
Currently, the system for letting students, staff and faculty know about an
incident, whether it be weather-related or an active shooter is still fairly
basic. A phone tree is in place and the school can also notify everyone via
television, radio and e-mail. The new electronic signs at Theron Montgomery
Building and Pete Mathews Coliseum can be used for the announcements as well as
signs put on each building on campus, but those methods do little for those
inside a classroom far away from telephones and e-mail.
For that reason, the school is also looking into software to help them send
text messages to teacher cell phones, allowing them a discrete way of receiving
information while in class.
“Right now, the way we notify the campus, emergency notification, is we have
the mass telephonic notification,” said Schneider. “The second way we do it is
you go on JSU’s newswire and we have a call down tree at the University Police
Department, making notifications that way. That is what we have in place right
About Jennifer Bachus
Jennifer Bacchus is a staff writer at The Jacksonville
News. She can be reached at 256-435-5021 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
See story at The Jacksonville News's website: www.jaxnews.com