Students’ safety concerns raised on campus

By Banning Ramirez
Flapjack Chronicle

With the growing recent events taking place at schools globally – ranging from the 20 elementary students that were shot at Sandy Hook to the gruesome shooting at Virginia Tech that left 37 massacred college adults back in 2007 – students across college campuses are beginning to raise a concern of their own and are beginning to ask questions: Am I safe on my own campus? What do I do when I need help?

Late last month, College of the Redwood’s Eureka campus was immediately closed and placed on lockdown after rumors of a bomb threat surfaced the internet via social media sites. Students who resided on campus were evacuated and law enforcement teams searched the campus’ 53 buildings. There have been no suspects taken into custody.

Humboldt State University Police Department’s Officer Sergeant Packer has been working for HSU for the past nine years and says that UPD’s mission in safety is both a physical and conceptual concept. Students need to physically stay safe at all times and also believe and trust in themselves that they are safe on Humboldt ground.

“If students don’t perceive the fact that they’re safe, then the students can’t excel at their education,” says Packer. “The university’s goal is to educate students, so our mission is to keep you safe. If you have that feeling in the back of your mind that you don’t feel safe, you’ll be missing out on that educational component.”

HSU students have not experienced anything close to College of the Redwood’s situation, but Sergeant Packer also does not deny that these kinds of things happen from time to time. He says that UPD often runs into more quick and frequent situations.

“We had a day when we had a broken ankle and a person suffering from dizziness and had a lapse in his ability to stay conscience, which was probably the most recent thing that happened [on campus],” Packer says.

Terri Alexander, a 19-year-old cellular molecular biology student at HSU, broke her fibula while skating to her on campus job and was left a little disappointed with student’s reactions in regards to her safety.

“I felt like the staff knew how to handle the situation by using just their skills,” says Alexander. “The nurses, my boss, and UPD knew what to do to help me transition from the position I was in to the hospital. My boss and everyone around me had this immediate reaction. It should be basic human instinct to do so.”

Alexander definitely felt safe in the hands of the staff and faculty on campus, but felt a little hesitant in the hands of students who merely just sat around and watched.

“I feel like there needs to be something on campus that helps gear students to help people that need medical attention,” says Alexander. “Not only should the staff need to know what to do, but students should learn how to help someone and get involved.”

Communications major Katie Lowe, 19, feels the same.

“It’s nice that the campus offers a lot of information on the prevention of accidents and emergencies, but stuff still can happen,” Lowe agrees. “It would be nice to know how to respond to those situations.”

Quickly responsive and reliable is the label that UPD prides itself for, but respectively shares close with another on campus resource that has a slightly different job – and gets the campus community involved as well.

The Campus Emergency Response Team on HSU’s campus is a highly trained group of 30 student and staff members that help to assist on-campus emergencies ranging from controlling small fires to assisting trapped persons after large earthquakes.

Dorie Lanni, a 37-year-old graduating political science senior, acts as CERT’s assistant emergency management coordinator.

“[CERT] pretty much does anything needed of us in an emergency situation,” Lanni explains. “It could be an earthquake or a campus evacuation, so we get the same training that professionals get.”

Lanni stands strong and takes CERT’s mission on preparation to heart – even to the point where she has a box in her car where she keeps necessary items, just in case she has to be on campus for two days.

“Safety is being as prepared as possible for events you can anticipate and events that you can’t,” says Lanni. “Whenever something happens locally, CERT is ready to go.”

Students who are interested in joining the campus’ CERT team can attend a special orientation over the summer for more information regarding the program, before the 2013 HSU CERT Academy begins in late July. The CERT team will be hosting it on campus in the Emergency Operations Center, SBS 179 on Friday, July 5 from 10 to 11 a.m. and Friday, July 12 from 4 to 5 p.m. More information can be found at cert.humboldt.edu.

“We really need to look out for each other and care for each other. It’s a great program and it’s all volunteer based,” says Lanni. “It’s all people who care about their community and want this campus to be a safe place. There have been a lot of recent events going on, so this is really good training for people to have.”

With CERT and UPD ready to respond to anything, there are many immediate services that are readily available to all students in case of an emergency on campus that can save you or someone’s life. The most commonly known safety response resource on campus is rather large, sometimes blue and looks like a pole.

The Blue Light System on HSU’s campus serves as a multipurpose safety tool for students on campus who are quickly in need of assistance.

“[The Blue Light System] has an emergency button on there,” says Packer. “You hit it and it automatically calls 911 and immediately contacts our dispatchers.”

Packer even says students use the assistance pole late at night to contact UPD officials in case they need someone to simply walk them to their car in the parking lot on late nights.

“On our newer assistance poles, you can punch in 5555 and call our emergency dispatchers on a non-emergency system,” Packer says. “If you’re on campus, don’t feel safe and it’s late at night, an officer will come and walk you to your location at night.”

With students heading into summer, it’s safe to say that HSU’s campus has been kept safe and in good hands this past academic year thanks to the hard work of our officers and CERT members that are ready to risk their lives for another.

“We have around 8,000 students on this campus, so that’s about 16,000 eyes,” Packer says. “If you see something that doesn’t look right, just let us know.”

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