A month ago a gunman walked onto the University of Texas at Austin campus creating fear and confusion, and many students and faculty didn’t know what to do.
“They didn’t really move us,” current UT-Austin student and former TJC student Matt Loving said. “Our professor was like ‘get out if you can’ and then the sirens went off and a voice came on that said ‘get inside right now.'”
According to Loving, there seemed to be a lot of confusion on the UT campus about what to do.
After the incident at UT-Austin many colleges may have to rethink what they would do in this situation. TJC is doing the same.
“We follow a best practices model that was developed after a number of school shootings, but particularly after Virginia Tech,” Director of Campus Safety Chief Randy Melton said. “After the Virginia Tech tragedy, the governor of Virginia commissioned a blue ribbon commission to study in-school-shootings. They recommended several things, and that is now our best practice model for campus policing.”
The Kane Report deals with any type of major incidents and hazards, not just school shootings.
“We know that there’s not one magic way to communicate with all students, faculty, parents and visitors,” Melton said. “The Kane Report recommended creating various means. We have studied our systems and have implemented a variety of ways to communicate with our campus community.”
In the event of a shooting or any other major incident TJC’s Campus Safety has many different ways of communicating with faculty and students. Some of these include sending e-mails and alerts through Apache Access, sending text messages through Apache Text, sending out alerts on the campus website and sending alerts through the TJC bad weather hotline.
Instant announcements can also be made through the intercoms on every TJC phone on campus
“There’s a telephone in each office on campus and even in the faculty members’ offices,” Melton said. “So we have capabilities to pick up a phone and using a special code of course, you can make an intercom type call. We call it the TJC Immediate Notification Telephone Network.”
For those away from a computer or phone, messages can be heard through the loud speaker located in Ramey Tower on Jenkins Hall.
“We have the capability of calling into that system and making it a speaker,” Melton said. “That is currently the only loud speaker we have on campus. It gets most of campus but if you know you’re in Ornelas, you’re not going to be able to hear it.”
Through these announcements, Campus Safety will be able to inform students and faculty what steps they need to take in certain emergencies.
“It depends on the situation,” Executive Director of Campus Safety Dr. Tom Johnson said. “Everything is dependent upon that particular situation. Sometimes we evacuate, sometimes we lock down, sometimes we shelter in place.”
In a campus emergency, a crisis management team made up of administrative members will have the responsibility of figuring out solutions and getting the announcements to students and parents.
“We have what we call crisis management and intervention protocols so, if this happens-we do this and if this happens-this is what we do,” Johnson said. “We try to work out the scenarios before they happen and that way we know what to do.”
TJC and Campus Safety also have many protocols to prevent campus emergencies like a shooting from happening.
“Whenever an event happens anywhere or happens here we do something we call a post-event needs assessment,” Johnson said. “In other words, we look at what happened, we learn from what happened there, and we try to correct those. We look at it and say how can we learn from that so we don’t have that issue in the future.”
In addition, TJC currently has over 200 surveillance cameras around campus to monitor any suspicious activity.
“All the security cameras, they’re tied into two big screens…over at Campus Safety,” Johnson said. “We have a person now that it is their job to sit there. And now let’s say they are watching these cameras and they see over at Sledge Hall there’s a problem there, well now we can send our officers there. We don’t have a lot of officers, but this helps better utilize the officers we have.”
TJC has also entered into an inter-local agreement with the city of Tyler and the Tyler Police Department.
“We’ve recently have entered into a formal agreement in concerns like if we need a SWAT team,” Melton said.
“We are not large enough for a SWAT team so that’s in case we need theirs. Or I needed the major crimes unit for the Tyler police or some of the expertise for the crime scene unit at Tyler PD. So this is part of emergency management. So it’s behind the scenes kind of stuff, but this is the way that college universities entered into agreements.”
Tyler PD officers will also help patrol the TJC campus.
“Since the entire campus is within the city of Tyler, Tyler PD is now going to have officers who are assigned to this beat,” Johnson said. “Before, they felt uncomfortable with coming on TJC property, but now they are actually going to be walking around…so you’ll actually start seeing Tyler PD officers periodically. They’ll be on campus, which supplies us with more security.”