Regents pass campus safety plan

The Board of Regents approved a plan Sept. 12 to improve the security of Northern Kentucky University’s campus through multiple means of communication to students.

The recommendations will be shared with President James Votruba, who will then decide whether or not to approve them.

Votruba set a committee in response to the Virginia Tech shootings, called the Emergency Communications Task Force, which met throughout the summer to come up with a plan to heighten campus security in case of an emergency. This committee, which was made up of 12 NKU administration members, faculty and staff, came up with four recommendations: A mass communication system via text messaging, e-mail and voicemail to notify people of an emergency; installation of security cameras in high profile areas around campus; a public address system with outdoor sirens to notify people on campus and indoor intercom systems to notify people in classrooms and hallways of an emergency; and a full-time risk manager position be added to the Facilities Management Staff to assess emergency communications operations and updates on campus.

“By implementing elements of the task force recommendations, we will help insure that NKU remains both a very safe campus and also a campus that can respond effectively if an emergency occurs,” Votruba said.

According to Ken Ramey, NKU vice president of administration and finance and a member of the task force, the estimated cost of this newly implemented plan is between $250,000 and $1 million.

Ramey said the money for this plan will either come from the university’s reserves as a one-time fee or a budget will be set to finance the equipment over a five-year period. Either way, it will not come out of the pockets of NKU students, he said.

Various vendors of emergency communication equipment came to meetings to demonstrate how the equipment worked and how much it would cost, said Harold Todd, director of public safety, chief of the University Police at NKU and a member of the task force. He added that sales representatives gave multiple presentations at meetings.

“It’s a high price tag, but it has to be done and it has to be done right,” Todd said.

The task force came up with the recommended plan after doing an assessment of what NKU would currently be able to do in an the event of an emergency on campus and compared it to other university campuses, said Matt Brown, the dean of students at NKU and member of the task force.

In addition to his work on the Emergency Communications Task Force, Brown also hopes to add counseling for students, educate them on what to do in the case of an emergency and work on training with faculty and staff to identify students who might pose a threat.

The recommendation by the task force to implement the mass communication system, including text message as a means of emergency communication, was partly due to a survey sent out to students, faculty and staff, 86.5 percent of the respondents were students. This survey asked about the forms of communication they use, how often they check it, which form they use the most and if they would be willing to give out their cell phone numbers to be reached via text message in case of an emergency.

“We don’t expect emergencies that require rapid campus-wide communication, but if such an emergency should occur, I want to be sure that we are ready to respond,” Votruba said.

Text messages on cell phones ranked No. 1 as the form of communication checked most by students with a response percentage of 41.09 percent. 89.62 percent of students surveyed said they would voluntarily give their cell phone number out to NKU for notifications of an emergency.

According to Ramey, the recommended plan will hopefully be implemented beginning this fall and be completed within the spring semester.

“This is the best money that we can spend that we hopefully will never use,” Ramey said.

Votruba added that one of the problems VT confronted was that they did not have a quick and effective way of communicating to the entire campus.

“We want to make sure that this is not the case at NKU,” he said.