In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings
Dave Baer, Bradley police chief
The deadly shootings at Virginia Tech on April 16 served as a chilling reminder that tragedies can happen anywhere, including college campuses. No one is more aware of this than David Baer, chief of Bradley University’s police department. For the past 34 years, Baer’s mission has been to ensure the safety of everyone, particularly students, on campus.
Baer and Chuck Ruch, associate provost of information resources and technology, along with other members of the campus community, are working to upgrade the University’s emergency communication capabilities. Plans previously in place include media announcements on local radio and television, mass e-mails, a Web site, and phone trees to contact specific groups such as residence hall advisors and others.
Effective this summer, a new Web site, emergency.bradley.edu, allows wider access so those who know relevant information can post it. All postings will include a date/time stamp to clarify the timeliness of the information. In addition, the campus community may dial 309-677-4000 for emergency information.
While the Web site and phone number allow people to “ask” for information, the University also is devising a plan to alert the campus community if there is an emergency. Plans are underway to collect cell phone numbers and authorization to receive emergency text messages from all students, faculty, and staff on a volunteer basis. Text messages will alert people to an emergency situation and will direct them to the emergency phone or Web site for more information. The message also will advise people about what type of action they should take, such as locking themselves in a building, vacating, etc. Baer and Ruch emphasize that only emergency information will be sent, and a clear policy regarding the emergency database and mass text messaging will be established this summer.
In addition to text messaging, the University will work in conjunction with the Peoria Police Department to send a similar phone message to all existing land lines on campus.
Besides efforts on Bradley’s campus, three government officials are spearheading efforts to see what can be done at Illinois colleges to help provide for the protection of students.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich is creating the Illinois Campus Security Task Force, while U.S. Senator Richard Durbin proposed legislation called the Campus Law Enforcement Emergency Response Act of 2007. Attorney General Lisa Madigan invited college and university leaders to participate in a statewide discussion of campus safety issues including emergency lockdown and communication, developing security and law enforcement relationships, and mental health and privacy issues such as those addressed in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
Baer will serve on a team comprised of members of the Illinois Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, which will respond to the issues that arise from these efforts. He said, “Individuals in campus law enforcement have been called upon to be the links of response to the federal and state groups.”
Baer stresses the importance of Bradley’s involvement in these efforts. He says, “You can’t act like you’re off in a corner. We monitor and look for problems that could exist. It’s for our betterment. There is no way to know what people will do.”
For information about the University’s police department and about Bradley’s Emergency Response Plan and Emergency Guidelines visit the Web site. Go>