Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Year after Virginia Tech, UNF Faced Test; Colleges Nationwide Scrutinized Procedures after the Shootings

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

A Year after Virginia Tech, UNF Faced Test; Colleges Nationwide Scrutinized Procedures after the Shootings

Article excerpt


In the days that followed the shooting deaths of 32 people at Virginia Tech one year ago today, colleges nationwide reviewed and updated their own security procedures.

In a few cases, those changes have already been tested.

On March 27, the discovery of four suspicious devices at the University of North Florida gave officials a chance to use mass Internet and voice notifications as a bomb squad investigated. The devices turned out to be part of an art project.

University officials praised the police response, but UNF Police Chief Mark Foxworth said it was a chance to notice some bugs still need to be worked out.

"We found some pros and some cons," he said.

Other campus police and security forces are increasing training, including for such things as evacuations. The biggest challenge encountered, some said, is how to shut down an entire campus quickly in an emergency.

"We can't just pull a lever and a dome encloses ... the campus," Florida State University Police Chief David Perry said., (904) 359-4247


A state review of the April 16, 2007, massacre at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., identified several critical problems in how authorities responded to the attacks. The panel concluded lives could have been saved by faster and stronger reaction. Among the findings:

Campus alert system: At the time Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and then himself, officials were planning to add sirens and speakers to the sprawling campus. The only alert system was a rudimentary phone tree and an e-mail alert that was sent more than two hours after the first shooting.

Officers on campus: Five full-time officers patrolled the campus of 131 buildings and 30,000 students. There was no security perimeter or fence.

Emergency procedures: Ten students were able to successfully jump from windows onto the grass, but many buildings were above concrete. Students weren't able to barricade the door against Cho, who shot through the door killing students. The building couldn't be locked down because there are more than 5,000 doors on campus.

Student counseling: There were clear past indications of the gunman's problems, as family and professors noted, but the information was either ignored or not passed on.



Campus alert system: A text-messaging notification system has been in place since 2004. It has since been mandatory for students to provide cell phone numbers and more than 77 percent of students have done so.

Officers on campus: There are 90 sworn officers with an average of 10 on duty for the campus of 1,000 buildings and 56,000 students.

Emergency procedures: Each building has an emergency plan that has been discussed in recent meetings. …

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