BC safety a concern after VT shootings
April 25, 2007
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The day after the Virginia Tech shooting, Bakersfield College experienced a minor bomb threat that most students on campus didn’t know about.
It brought to question student safety on campus, and, in the case of something like the Virginia Tech shooting actually occurring on campus, the emergency procedures and what students should do.
“Now (after Virginia Tech), people will be interested in what we need them to do in case of an emergency; we don’t have time to explain things in situations like that,” said BC President William Andrews. “We need them to do what we want them to do, and we need them to want to do it. When we receive threats like this, it’s taken very seriously.”
In light of what happened at Virginia Tech, education coordinators are urgently preparing for some of the worst-case scenarios and a Homeland Security grant has been contracted with the Global Community College, Inc., to provide expertise, direction and leadership.
“The tragic incident at Virginia Tech this past week reminds us of the urgent need to diminish the vulnerabilities and enhance the security of our own colleges,” read a letter from state community colleges Chancellor Mark Drummond. “After all, the safety and welfare of our students, faculty, and staff is our ultimate responsibility.”
The Virginia Tech shooter, Cho Seung-Hui, shot and killed 32 people before shooting himself. Now, according to MSNBC, schools nationwide have been reporting would-be copycat threats.
“I’m sure it was a copycat, although we went through the normal bomb threat procedures,” said Andrews. “Our challenge is that we’re an open environment; anyone can walk onto campus, but we need it to be a secure safe haven. This sort of thing can happen anywhere, the only thing we can do is be prepared. We could only stop it by building a 20-foot wall all around the campus with gates and metal detectors and even then, who knows? I hope we’d never come to that.”
One thing that BC would like to improve upon is getting buildings cleared faster. According, to Andrews. BC did learn something from the bomb threat. BC was unable to contact its first and second responders, which is a very serious problem, but there will be a debriefing. Very importantly, they will be getting cell phone numbers for all responders.
” We’ve been planning to start training in the fall,” said Andrews. “Next year, we are planning for a campus-wide drill, in the worst case scenario. Then the BPD, Fire Department and emergency responders will get involved. We’re planning on locking down the schools, but students will know that it will happen. We don’t want to create chaos, unless we have to. People react chaotically, and if you don’t have levels of control, things get out of hand.”
The day after the Virginia Tech shootings, e-mails were sent out to BC faculty members on April 16 at about 1 p.m., warning them and others to stay where they were and that at anytime between 1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3 p.m., or 5 p.m., a bomb could go off. School continued on as normal, and by 1:30 p.m., emails were sent out with an all clear.
“It was probably just some idiot trying to get out there bigger and better,” said Janet Rangel, 20, BC theater major. “I feel pretty safe on campus though, but in the back of my mind I wonder, what if? You never know what could happen.”
Students were upset, but understood that it was a hoax that should be taken seriously.
“People are just so used to other people crying wolf that nobody takes warnings seriously when they actually need to be,” said Cara Dykes, 18, liberal arts major.
According to Andrews, this sort of threat has been occurring since 2001.
“Primarily after 9/11, a series of bomb threats occurred during finals week. Some students don’t understand that no matter what, there will be a final,” said Andrews.
“It could happen anywhere, we can’t control or predict anything like that,” said Kolt Flemmings, 24, business administrations major.
For more information on emergency procedures, a new page on the BC Web site has been dedicated to emergency response plans.