By Lianna Hubbard and Jose Diaz
This semester, FSW Public Safety is modifying procedures to make the college a safer place in emergency situations.
“It’s a different day. It is our responsibility as a college to ensure all our faculty, staff, and students are safe,” said Gina Doeble, the FSW vice president of administrative services. “It’s because of the news; it’s because of what happened at Marjory Stoneman Douglas,” referring to the mass shooting that killed 17 teachers and students in a high school in Parkland, Florida.
The changes are mostly to FSW’s emergency response plan. This is the plan for mass casualty situations, like a weather emergency or an active shooter.
“The emergency response plan was too focused on yesterday’s climate,” Doeble said. “We’re in a different time and we can’t be operating under 1990 rules.”
Doeble said FSW Public Safety was founded in the wake of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, which killed 32 students and faculty.
Bracing for what may never come
Over the summer, FSW began implementing new safety procedures.
Doorstoppers were installed in each classroom. Classroom doors lock from the outside, so in an emergency, it is difficult for professors or students to lock the door safely.
Now, each classroom is outfitted with a metal doorstopper from Nightlock Door Security Devices. This metal stopper can slide into slots on the door and floor, securing the heavy classroom doors.
“We installed those in every classroom so in the event of an unfortunate shooting, a faculty or student could take that little red key off the wall,” said Doeble.
Only classrooms have these door stoppers when the Compass went to press, but FSW is planning to install stoppers in offices and other areas in need.
“We prioritized and said ‘hey we can do this and we can do this.’ Unfortunately, money is always an issue,” said Doeble. “The question is; now can we expand that beyond the classrooms?”
Most public areas where students gather, like the cafeteria (S Building) and library (J Building) don’t have heavy wooden doors where stoppers can be installed like classrooms do. Instead, they have sliding glass doors.
These doors can be locked remotely by Public Safety.
“We can push a button and any door with those access controls will lock,” said Doeble.
Along with door stoppers, FSW installed a new alert system for emergency situations.
“FSW Alert is a way that we can roll out alert messages for when there’s something happening on campus and you will get a message for what to do,” said Doeble.
FSW Alerts sends notifications to all computer and TV screens on campus, all FSW emails, and to all phones with the new FSW app downloaded.
“Something has to be able to get your attention when seconds and minutes matter,” said Greg Turchetta, the executive director of marketing and media and developer of the system.
The first step
Many of these changes came from FSW’s security report from last year.
In fall 2018, Doeble invited Veritas, a security assessment company, to review the security of all the campuses. They reviewed infrastructure security; like entrances, exits, lines of sight, and shelters.
“It was a physical vulnerability assessment,” Doeble said. “It looked at all of our physical facilities and where there could be some vulnerabilities. They look at it from an unfortunate view point, which is a mass casualty situation.”
Veritas conducted their review from fall 2018 to the beginning of the spring semester. The former Public Safety director, Anthony Giaimo, resigned before the review was complete, after just six months in the position. A new director was hired last month after a six-month vacancy.
“(The director) will be on top of it, looking at the college emergency plan, looking at some of the recommendations that have come out of the Veritas report,” Doeble said.
Change comes from the top
Public Safety’s changes are running top and bottom, with many vacancies being filled and created, even at the leadership of the department.
“Change of culture is always a change of leadership,” said Doeble.“I want to see a visible presence of public safety on our campuses and see we are making a concerted effort to see we are preparing as best we can for an unfortunate event here.”
Jerry Connolly, the former commander of security for Polk County, Florida colleges and universities and deputy chief of the Haines City Police Department, will begin as FSW director of public safety on September 16.
“I’m excited to have a new chief and have a leader,” said Doeble.
With the director position vacant for six months, the previous captain, Reginald Mitchell, filled some of the director’s duties. Captain Mitchell resigned over the summer about the time the search for the director job began.
Thijuana Williams, the former sergeant, was promoted to captain. She is second in command and oversees the day to day operations of FSW.
The director of public safety provides vision for the department. They organize training, enforce policies, and fulfill administrative duties.
Outside of leadership positions, there are also empty slots for officers. Currently, FSW is on the search for two officers and two safety technicians (unsworn Public Safety employees).
Along with prepping for emergency situations, Public Safety is striving to change police culture on campus.
The department launched a community survey on the department website (fsw.edu/publicsafety) at the end of August. The survey, designed by Sergeant David Hyson, is part of Public Safety’s push toward community policing.
“I would like to see more interaction between Public Safety and students in a positive way,” said Doeble.
Public Safety began officer patrols on foot over the summer. This semester, there will be officers patrolling the buildings in shifts.
“Our whole concept is to get our officers out to do policing in the buildings, so everyone knows the officer by name,” said Sergeant Hyson.
Officer Robert Wilds is one of the officers working patrol.
“It’s fun; you get to interact with a lot of people and see new faces,” Wilds said. “It only takes one officer to change the view of many students.”
Public Safety will use the survey to continue their efforts to interact with the FSW community.
“I want the feedback to see what the feeling is of the community, so the department can do better,” said Sergeant Hyson.