MU says emergency plan in line with state recommendations

Tuesday, August 21, 2007 | 8:52 p.m. CDT; updated 9:21 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

MU Police Chief Jack Watring said the university’s current emergency plan addresses 90 percent of the recommendations released Tuesday by the state’s Campus Security Task Force.

“We constantly update the plan, and we currently have an improved mass communication plan in the works with the Information Technology department,” Watring said.

The final report by the 29-member task force, created by Gov. Matt Blunt in April after 32 students were shot to death at Virginia Tech, identified flaws in current emergency response systems and suggested ways for campuses to better respond to their students’ needs. Three subcommittees addressed communication and rapid response; planning and prevention; and risk mitigation and recovery. The task force met five times and heard public comment at two separate meetings, in Kansas City and St. Louis.

Watring said MU is currently working to improve its communication plan by more quickly notifying faculty and staff about vital concerns.

Peter Ashbrook, MU’s environmental health and safety director, said the current university emergency plan was in good shape. The task force recommended that each campus have a plan in place to notify students, faculty and staff in the event of an emergency.

“We have been working on both communications and mental health issues,” Ashbrook said, “The report said the right things, and we’re taking away what we can.”

The report recommended that colleges and universities offer on-campus, licensed mental health services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to the entire campus community and make better use of technology to monitor mental health and improve communication on campus.

Despite the low incidence of violent crime on campuses, the task force said Missouri universities should encourage their communities to be proactive in improving emergency response plans.

Other recommendations include:

• Designating an individual at each college campus to coordinate emergency and Department of Homeland Security operations.

• Ensuring faculty, students and staff are familiar with emergency plans and federal, state and local government policies.

• Putting locks on every campus building.

• Improving collaboration between local and campus emergency response systems.

The task force’s recommendations will be reviewed by a UM System committee established by Gordon Lamb, interim system president.

“The University of Missouri must always be a safe place to learn, live, work and visit,” Lamb said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon. “We are absolutely committed to safety, and the report of the Campus Security Task Force will provide additional guidance in this regard.”

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