The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Campus safety: Are students informed?

Freshman Kaitlin Shea knows how to protect herself in an emergency. Shea said she learned in high school how to shield herself from an active shooter in the building and practiced mandatory lockdown drills with her classmates. Though she said she feels relatively safe at UW-Eau Claire, she does not rule out the possibility of someone coming on campus with a gun.

“You never feel that it would happen to you, but it could,” she said.

More than 280 school-associated violent deaths – homicides, suicides or other non-accidental violent deaths – have occurred in the U.S since 1999, according to National School Safety and Security Services. Of these, 130 deaths were due to school shootings.

Though Eau Claire has not experienced a school shooting, guns may have been brought on to campus. According to UW-Eau Claire Police Department crime statistics, since 2004, UW-Eau Claire police have dealt with 10 cases of a person caring a concealed weapon.

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Sgt. Christopher Kirchman of the UW-Eau Claire Police Department said that although Eau Claire is a relatively safe community, students should be attentive and ready to act if a situation presents itself.

“Anybody can walk on here every day ., (but) students and faculty shouldn’t be afraid,” he said. “They should be alert.”

The police sergeant said one way of educating students and faculty about and preparing them for emergency situations is Eau Claire’s “Emergency Procedures Guide,” which is placed in classrooms, residence halls and other buildings throughout campus.

The “Emergency Procedures Guide” is a “quick reference guide that can be used to prepare for and respond to emergencies on campus,” according to the document. The guide includes emergency response phone numbers and information about how to handle emergencies such as bomb threats, chemical/hazardous waste spill, disturbances, fires, medical emergencies, severe weather, flooding, active shooters and what to do with a suspicious letter or package.

According to the document, “individuals are most effective in an emergency when they are prepared.”

Kirchman also said being prepared for emergencies is important. But how many Eau Claire students are actually familiar with the guide, and therefore prepared for an emergency?

Freshman Rebekah Davis said she’s seen the guide around campus – in her residence hall and in classrooms – but has not read it.

Davis is not alone. Larry Savage and Ben Reisner also said that not only have they not read the guide, but both freshmen did not know that such a document existed on campus, either. Though they said they could keep themselves safe in an emergency situation, they said it may be a good idea for resident assistants to review safety procedures with their residents. The two men said they only recalled going over fire safety with their resident assistant.

Savage and Reisner also said they did not know how the university would inform faculty and students of an ongoing campus emergency.

“We have multiple methods of informing people (of an emergency), so hopefully they’ll get the information from more than one source,” Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Dean of Students Beth Hellwig said. Hellwig is also chair of Eau Claire’s Emergency Preparedness Committee.

She said that in the event of a campus emergency, mass e-mails and text messages would be sent to faculty and students to keep them informed. The university’s Web site also would include up-to-date information, and the local media would be informed of the situation on campus.

“In the world that we live in, I can’t guarantee that everyone would be safe,” Hellwig said. “. I do think I can say that we’ve put together protocols to warn people and keep people as safe as we can.”

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Campus safety: Are students informed?