Southeast Missouri State University
For more information, contact:
Ann K. Hayes (573) 651-2552
ahayes@semo.edu

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SOUTHEAST MISSOURI STATE REPORTS LOW CRIME RATE, SECURE CAMPUS ENVIRONMENT
Southeast poised for unexpected thanks to emergency preparedness initiatives

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., July 12, 2002 -- Southeast Missouri State University continues to be one of the safest campuses in the region, making the University a secure place for Southeast students, faculty, staff and visitors to learn, live, work and enjoy.

That's the message conveyed in the Southeast Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Transit 2001 Annual Report.

According to the report, Southeast had no homicides, rapes, aggravated assaults, arsons, forgeries, weapons offenses, sex offenses, stalkings, disorderly conduct or hate crimes in 2001. Just one robbery was reported in 2001, with no such instances reported the previous four years. Just one auto theft and three burglaries were reported during 2001, placing Southeast Missouri State University extremely low among crime statistics reported by other college campuses across the nation.

Eighty-eight instances of larceny were reported on campus in 2001; that figure is down from the previous year. Just 51 instances of vandalism were reported last year. With a campus population of students and employees that exceeds 10,000, those figures are exceedingly low for a 12-month period, says Doug Richards, director of the Department of Public Safety.

DPS has an authorized staff of 16 Commissioned Public Safety Officers and five part-time Commissioned Public Safety Officers who work to ensure the safety of the campus.

In addition, over the last five years, the University has installed closed circuit television cameras, emergency call boxes and a lighted corridor across the campus.

The lighted corridor channels students into the safest and most heavily traveled pedestrian traffic areas of campus. The corridor features enhanced lighting and is augmented with emergency call boxes along the way. To enhance student safety, the lighting has been increased within the lighted corridor to exceed the Illuminating Engineering Society's standard for nighttime illumination. The lighted corridor was established to improve Southeast's safe campus environment and allows students to walk from one side of campus to the other and never be more than 200 to 300 feet from an emergency call box. The Call Box system is designed so that an emergency pedestal is always visible to someone, regardless of their location on campus.

About 30 Emergency Call Boxes have been installed along the lighted corridor and other locations around campus. Anyone with a genuine emergency may use the call boxes by pressing the red "HELP" button on the call box. The call is automatically sent to the University Police dispatcher via the 911 emergency phone system. A uniformed police officer will be dispatched to the activated phone. The caller also can communicate the nature of the emergency to the dispatcher while the responding police unit is en route.

DPS also uses a state of the art closed circuit color camera system to enhance the safety of the entire University community. Cameras are located at multiple sites around campus at strategic, public locations. Both fixed and pan/tilt/zoom cameras are used to provide as much coverage as possible. The camera system supplements the Department's vehicle and foot patrols of public areas. The cameras allow multiple indoor and outdoor locations to be viewed and recorded simultaneously. They also assist in the detection and identification of problems or incidents and allow the dispatcher to coordinate efforts with Police units responding to a problem area. All cameras are recorded 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This recording capability allows the Department to review tapes after the fact to detect and identify problems or crimes on campus. Thereby, appropriate action can be taken, if needed. The camera system is an important tool used by the department to help increase the safety of all members of the University community and their property.

Southeast also offers a Student Watch and Escort Service (S.W.E.S.), which is free and offered by the University Police Department. Each night, S.W.E.S. employees escort students across campus so they do not have to walk alone. S.W.E.S. also provides on campus nightly patrols and helps to reduce the number of personal crimes that happen on campus. S.W.E.S. provides the means for more comprehensive and effective campus patrol by providing the University Police Department with more manpower.

In addition to these initiatives, Southeast has purchased satellite phones and assisted the City of Cape Girardeau with funding for a chemical analyzer for bioterrorism, to which Southeast will have access. The Department of Public Safety at Southeast has driven all of these endeavors in an effort to provide a safe and secure environment for all persons who come in contact with the University.

Emergency Preparedness

Creating a secure environment begins with emergency preparedness, a major and ongoing effort at Southeast that has positioned this University well for any unforeseen circumstance. Southeast administrators have made a concerted effort to prepare the campus to respond to an emergency situation, should the unexpected occur. Through partnerships with the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA), Cape Girardeau County Emergency Preparedness, the City of Cape Girardeau Emergency Preparedness, local fire departments and regional HAZMAT teams, the region has become a focal point in Missouri for its broad level of preparedness should a crisis strike.

This has been a long effort that started more than five years ago at Southeast Missouri State as an initiative of Dr. Kenneth W. Dobbins, then executive vice president and now University president. The fact that Southeast Missouri State University is located on the New Madrid Earthquake Fault provides cause for constant vigil, but ongoing emergency preparedness training has better prepared the campus for any number of situations, including severe weather, tornados or criminal events.

Emergency simulations have been held, a Campus Emergency Preparedness Plan has been written and is in place, a new early warning siren system has been implemented, building evacuations have been practiced and dozens of employees have completed the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training program in an effort to become better prepared for a major disaster.

Richards says emergency preparedness is a philosophy at Southeast, a way of life. Beth Glaus with the Department of Public Safety, adds that emergency preparedness at Southeast is the epitome of the total quality management philosophy. It is a program, she says, that requires constant and ongoing testing and re-testing to ensure that processes work correctly.

One component of the emergency preparedness program is CERT training. Since the program was launched just a few years ago, 139 employees have completed the program as have 140 citizens from off-campus.

CERT is an intensive four-day training program designed to prepare a community for a major disaster. The training program is presented by the Cape Girardeau Fire Department and Project Impact, along with the Department of Public Safety and Training & Development at Southeast Missouri State University. CERT is a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens will be initially on their own and their actions can make a difference. The training covers disaster preparedness, basic fire suppression, post-disaster emotional health, treatment strategies for life-threatening conditions, light search and rescue operations, head-to-toe patient assessment, identifying and reducing potential fire hazards, fire fighting resources and techniques, basic first aid, rescuer safety and disaster simulation.

Over the past three years, Southeast Missouri State University has taken a very proactive approach to emergency preparedness and to training students, faculty and staff on how to deal with the unexpected. Building coordinators have been designated in every building on the campus, and those individuals have participated in training to help them in understanding their role and responsibilities in an emergency situation.

Background

In 1997, officials in the Department of Public Safety along with employees in Southeast's Facilities Management department attended an integrated emergency management course in Jefferson City, Mo. The State Emergency Management Agency led the training, which was offered for a number of Cape Girardeau County participants, among them the Cape Girardeau Police Department, the Cape Girardeau Fire Department and city and county elected officials. Following this exercise, simulations began in earnest on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University.

In December 1999, a Campus-wide Emergency Takedown Exercise was planned. This involved all members of the campus Emergency Response Team as well as members of the campus Emergency Preparedness Committee. The Emergency Response Team was asked to gather on the afternoon of Dec. 1. in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), located in the lower level of Robert A. Dempster Hall.

The EOC, fully equipped with numerous personal computers, is located in an earthquake resistant bunker. A fully equipped telecommunications center (with equivalent capabilities as those in the main Department of Public Safety office) is located in an adjacent room. The telecommunications center also serves as a storage center for emergency supplies, water, food, telephones, office supplies, etc.

The takedown exercise was orchestrated by Southeast's Department of Public Safety. Once assembled, members of the Emergency Response Team began participating in a simulation in which members of the Emergency Response Team began receiving messages via phone in the EOC that required them to handle a variety of tasks and to make decisions on how to handle tenuous circumstances. University Relations staff, including the director of University Relations and the News Bureau Director, participated in executive staff briefings, began drafting statements for the media and led two mock news conferences during the afternoon, in which "planted" reporters fired questions, while members of the Emergency Response Team looked on.

A debriefing to discuss the Emergency Table-top Exercise was held in February 2000. The consensus of all participants was that this was an extremely worthwhile event and certainly gave all a feel for what to expect when the unexpected occurs.

It may have been fortuitous. In April, just four months after the Emergency Table-top exercise, a severe storm swept through the campus. Several trees and power lines were downed, but no injuries or structural damage was reported. Many who had participated in the simulation said that given their participation in the mock event, they felt a bit more at ease when real severe weather took the campus by storm.

In July 2000, a second emergency preparedness exercise was held. This time, two buildings, Carnahan Hall -- which houses the Department of History and the Department of Political Science - and Kent Library were evacuated. People simulating a variety of injuries were planted in the building. Other participants were trapped under pieces of furniture and other heavy items. Several staff members who had completed CERT training put their hard hats on and went to work, simulating disaster fire suppression, disaster medical operations, light search and rescue operations, and team organization. Building coordinators worked to assist employees in safely evacuating buildings and in accounting for individuals in assembly areas. While the simulated disaster was unfolding, the Emergency Response Team met in the EOC on the lower level of Dempster Hall. Faculty and staff who did not actively participate in the exercise were invited to participate as observers. A debriefing, open to all faculty and staff, was held later that afternoon in Dempster Hall.

In spring 2001, the University's new outdoor warning system was installed and went on line. The system is now tested at noon on the first Wednesday of each month. In addition, in fall 2001, a campus-wide building evacuation drill was held.

All of these safety and emergency preparedness efforts were set in motion at Southeast years before the events of Sept. 11, 2001. But, as one might expect, they have taken on even more importance since. As the entire nation remains vigilant and on alert, Southeast is positioned at the forefront of its sister institutions in the State of Missouri, ready and prepared for what tomorrow might bring. Southeast officials are committed to the goal of providing students, faculty, staff and visitors with a safe learning, working and living environment. Campus safety and emergency preparedness are serious considerations at Southeast. The Department of Public Safety and University officials will continue to do their utmost to secure the campus environment for many future generations of Southeast college students.

 

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