Florida colleges re-examine security – Dubuque Telegraph Herald

Posted: Saturday, November 22, 2014 12:00 am

Updated: 5:02 am, Sat Nov 22, 2014.

Florida colleges re-examine security


Telegraph Herald

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Police officers have become as visible on college campuses as students and professors, as schools respond to the early Thursday morning shooting at Florida State University.

The incident, in which FSU alumnus Myron May injured three students in a campus library before being killed by police, has alarmed students and employees at colleges throughout the state. Schools now are reviewing their own security procedures.

“Incidents like this remind us we can never be too cautious,” said Alexander Casas, police chief at Florida International University, west of Miami.

Campus safety has been a high priority for most Florida colleges and universities since the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007. Many schools have added sirens with speakers as well as text, email and social media alert systems. They’ve also increased the number of counselors to deal with mental health issues.

Florida Atlantic University stationed a police officer at its library Thursday and Friday, even though police had no reason to believe there was any danger.

“There’s a psychological impact that takes place regionally when something like this occurs,” said FAU Police Chief Charles Lowe. “We’ve increased foot patrol and dedicated someone to the library, because we think it’s important to have a visible presence.”

Other schools also have beefed up police presence, including the University of Florida and University of Central Florida.

UCF is making its “Shots Fired” class available online to students, faculty and staff. The class trains participants on how to act and think during an emergency and is regularly taught to a variety of student organizations and departments, said university police spokeswoman Courtney Gilmartin.

“The hope with putting it online is that even more members of our community will have access to the training and invest their time in learning how to respond to a crisis,” she said.

Palm Beach State College uses incidents at other campuses to assess its emergency readiness and response plans, spokeswoman Grace Truman said.

The college is reviewing the emergency notices that were sent to students at FSU during the shooting. “We want to ensure that we are effective in issuing timely alerts in a crisis scenario,” Truman said.

Nova Southeastern University in Davie has a federally reviewed emergency and preparedness plan and has achieved 100 percent participation in employee training exercises, spokesman Brandon Hensler said. The university conducts quarterly safety drills, he said.

Broward College and the University of Miami issued statements saying they have strong security plans in place and remain vigilant in protecting students and employees.

UF is waiting to see if there are any lessons from the FSU incident that it can use to improve its safety measures, Police Maj. Brad Barber said.

“It certainly appears to have been a very efficient and effective operation in a very difficult situation,” Barber said.

After the Virginia Tech incidents, a review panel found there were warning signs that the student gunman there was dealing with severe mental illness. But May, the FSU shooter, isn’t known to have had recent contact with anyone at the school.

“I don’t know how in the world they could have ever predicted something might occur,” FAU’s Lowe said. “We don’t know why he chose FSU or why he chose the library. That’s very, very scary.”

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Saturday, November 22, 2014 12:00 am.

Updated: 5:02 am.

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