Suggestions for CAU Security after Morehouse Bomb Threat

B”H
I wrote this letter after there was a bomb threat at Morehouse college on November 9, 2011.  That morning, while teaching my class, I was sent this text:

The following is a message from Clark Atlanta University:

This is a Clark Atlanta University Emergency notification. This is a pre-cautionary alert. Repeat – this is a pre-cautionary alert. MOREHOUSE COLLEGE HAS JUST RECEIVED A BOMB THREAT. THE CALLER ADVISED THAT THE BOMB WAS WITHIN 3 QUARTERS OF A MILE OF THEIR CAMPUS. AVOID TRAVEL TO OR AROUND THE IMMEDIATE AREA OF THE MOREHOUSE COLLEGE CAMPUS UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Clark Atlanta University Police now has dispatched additional patrols to conduct PRECAUTIONARY perimeter checks, heightened safety patrols and sweeps on and around CLARK ATLANTA UNIVERSITY’S campus. Additional information will be forwarded immediately upon receipt.

The threat was investigated, and an “all clear” message was sent.  However, during that time, I realized how inadequately prepared I was in the case of a real emergency on the campus.

I wrote this letter to the administration in response to the situation that day:

B”H

Dear Dr. —, and Dr. —,

Although this is the first bomb-threat (and, I hope, the last bomb threat) I have seen on the CAU Campus, I was quite dismayed by the lack of information I had as a faculty member.

I know that the first and most important issue is the safety of our students, and they often look to faculty and staff to make sure that safety is maintained.  When we do not know EXACTLY how to handle an emergency situation, our students may feel unsafe on our campus.  Security comes from a confident and assuring manner, clear instructions and protocol, and good communication.

Today’s bomb threat at Morehouse was an excellent opportunity to see how CAU functions in an emergency situation, and I have some suggestions, from a faculty point-of-view, for making that process more efficient:

  1. Please make it clear to all faculty that they may ask students to turn off their ringers or turn their ringers to “vibrate,” but they may not ask their students to turn off their phones.  Without their phones, students and faculty cannot be informed in the case of an emergency. (Students who got the message in the hallway on their phones went down the hall in CMW and knocked on doors and informed students and faculty of the threat, as many were unaware because faculty had insisted students turn their phones off during class.)
  2. If it is possible to send out messages to the faculty and staff that are different from the messages sent to students, it would be helpful to tell faculty and staff what we should do in addition to what threat is present:
    1. Example Student Message:  There is a bomb threat. Please make your way toward the AUC library, where you will be at a safe distance from the bomb threat.  All classes scheduled for the next hour are cancelled.  All other classes will be held unless you are informed otherwise.
    2. Example Faculty Message:  There is a bomb threat.  If you are currently teaching classes, please lead your students outside in an orderly fashion, tell students in corridors and hallways to go outside, and direct students to walk toward the AUC library where they will be safe.  Please cancel classes scheduled in the next hour, but no other classes unless otherwise informed.
    3. Example Staff Message:  Office staff please remain near the phones for information about possible evacuation.  Inform callers that they should make their way toward the AUC library. Other staff should walk toward the AUC library area, and direct students to do the same.   Classes scheduled for the next hour are cancelled.  All other classes will be held unless otherwise notified.
  3. Post emergency instructions near all doors in classrooms that say, “In case of emergency . . . and list several different scenarios such as “fire alarm,” “bomb threat,” and “intruder.”  Those messages should be in clear, concise language and state specific instructions such as:
    1. Fire alarm:  Please stay with your class, exit in an orderly fashion, and walk at least 500 feet from the building.  Wait for an “all clear.”
    2. Bomb threat:  Please stay with your class, exit in an orderly fashion, instruct all others to leave the building, and walk at least one city block away from the threat area.  All classes scheduled for the next hour are cancelled.  You will be informed about whether or not additional classes may need to be cancelled
    3. Intruder:  Vacate all halls and bathrooms and secure yourself within a classroom.  Lock the door.  Avoid direct line-of-site with hallway or ground-floor windows.  Remain calm. Wait for “all clear.”

I hope you will find my suggestions helpful.

Sincerely,

Michelle Kassorla, Ph.D.


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