McNeese Reassessing Emergency Approach

April 16, 2007
Reported By: Lee Peck

Now the largest campus shooting, the deadly massacre at Virginia Tech has universities across the country reassessing their emergency approach.

"Any college campus, there's always a perceived sense of safety, whether we're dealing with students who cross the street or whether we're dealing with students who leave their purses in unlocked cars or on benches in the Ranch. They believe they're inside a bubble and they're safety. But unfortunately a university is like a small city and I think that's what the people of Virginia Tech learned today -- that something like this can happen anywhere," said McNeese State University Spokesperson Candice Townsend. "It's shocking and it makes you think about the training that the people on your campus have had."

Townsend and other university officials have been following the developments at Virginia Tech and are taking notes.

"You can't possibly prepare for every scenario imaginable, but we do try and prepare for as much as we possibly can," said Campus Police Chief Cinnamon Salvador.

Should something like this happen here, Salvador says her officers are prepared and can call for back up if needed. "They are trained and go through the same academy that every other law enforcement officer goes through. We also have agreements in place with other local agencies where they would come to assist if we needed more manpower," said Salvador.

Townsend says tragedies like these give McNeese and other universities the opportunity to improve their current crisis response plan. "Today I was watching what they did with the Virginia Tech web site and how they were using it to get information across and there was some things that we can learn that we can do better and there is some things that they did that we already have in place -- and that makes you feel good," said Townsend.

Reports of communication breakdowns at Virginia Tech will be discussed by McNeese University's critical response team in days to come.

"We will assess and determine whether or not the policies and procedures we have in place or adequate or if there is something we need to do differently or can add to our current plan," said Salvador.

"Anything that could possibly happen on a college campus, we want to talk about it and we want to see how we would respond if it happened here," said Townsend. "It's part of what this team does to meet on a regular basis and to look at the plans and update and to update them as technology updates."

There were also reports of a breakdown in cell phone and Internet service around Virginia Tech during the hours after the shooting. Townsend says McNeese does have backup systems if these services were to become overloaded... Something we learned during Hurricane Rita.