Texas State safety and risk management officials are increasing security measures this fall to ensure students, faculty, staff and visitors are safe in case of an emergency on campus.
Preplanning, student awareness and quick response times are the three main protocols faculty and staff members use when considering university safety, according to administration.
Russell Clark, director of Environmental Health, Safety and Risk Management, is the head of the university’s “guardian angel” team. Clark said he oversees the campus and overlooks Texas State’s environmental health and safety operations.
Clark said preplanning is carried out to ensure preparation in the event of an emergency. A few areas Clark oversees include exit sign inspections each month, equipment checks in labs on campus and food safety and handling measures in The Quad.
“Anything dealing with safety, I’m involved with it,” Clark said.
Clark said Texas State is a “very safe” campus and ranks at the “top” with the total number of cameras and lights available.
“I wouldn’t have a problem with my daughter going from the Rec to her dorm late at night,” Clark said. “It’s a very safe environment for everyone on campus.”
John Palmer, emergency management coordinator, works with each department on campus to come up with response plans after Clark handles initial response efforts to a campus-wide emergency.
Palmer said he works with city, county and state officials, so the university has helpful outside resources in case of a considerable incident. He said he has prior experience working with a response team during hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Palmer said his job is a “group effort” and involves every person on campus.
“We’re doing a different level of coordination with the other departments that normally wouldn’t think of themselves as having a role in emergency response,” Palmer said.
Jeb Thomas, supervisor of Access Services, manages university locksmiths, software management such as card swipes, the video camera system and the blue emergency phones on campus.
In response to a “different environment, different time and different threats,” the university is implementing a three-year program to switch out the hardware on locks, Thomas said.
Mechanisms that prevent students from locking their teachers out of classrooms are used at Texas State, Thomas said. However, the locks will be changed soon, he said.
“(We’re going to change the locks) so that you can push a button and lock the door just like an office lock,” Thomas said.
Palmer and Thomas said they agree they have to “ramp up the level of understanding” when it comes to an emergency on campus. They are working with campus marketing and Housing and Residential Life officials to produce more user-friendly brochures for the public and raise student awareness about safety.
“You could do all kinds of things and have one of the best programs out there for student involvement, and the next day something new happens,” Palmer said. “There’s never going to be another Virginia Tech (shooting) exactly like it happened at Virginia Tech. (It’s) never going to happen exactly like it happened with the elementary school (Sandy Hook shooting).”