Friday, April 27, 2007

UNC makes me proud!

Today, UNC made me proud...and it made me smile. On April 17th, UNC students dressed in maroon and orange gathered in the Pit area to hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting. They made posters of support and sent them to VT. On April 20th at noon after a moment of silence, the Bell Tower chimed the Virginia Tech alma mater. Then, on April 23rd at noon, students observed another moment of silence in the Pit area. I thought that was simply awesome. For those of you familiar with Chapel Hill, the Bell Tower basically represents this campus. It's used to signal the beginning of a football game and chimes every hour on the hour. I felt proud that this entire campus heard Virginia Tech's alma mater being sung by the heart of UNC. I only wish I'd been here to hear it.

Since I work for UNC campus police, lately I've been getting flooded with questions about how we're going to prevent a Virginia Tech incident from happening here. Well, you can't prevent it. This campus is 795 acres with 400+ buildings acting as a community for 37,000 students, faculty and staff. In addition to that, you also have a hospital with visitors at all hours and 75,000 visitors weekly to the libraries alone....and only 53 sworn officers. There's no way to predict or prevent an attack from happening. You plan for the worst, hope for the best and just deal with it when it happens and hope you've prepared for it. I can tell you some things the police are doing to be better prepared for it if it does happen.

After Columbine, the Dept. of Public Safety integrated active shooter drills as part of their yearly training. They're developing a multi-layered approach since no single system could solve the problem. Some students have started a pilot program where students can receive warnings through text messages on their cell phones. There's also email, but many employees and students aren't by the computer all day. Grounds workers and housekeepers wouldn't get an email in time. The university has started looking into a siren system that could also be used to make public address announcements. Between emails, text messages, phone trees, a siren system, police training and awareness of your surroundings, UNC's campus would be made safER. No system is foolproof, but they're doing what they can to make sure this community is kept safe. If you want to read the whole article, you can check out . As of today, it was the front page of the website.