by Ellen Rossow
In midst of community and national safety concerns, MSUM is focusing on campus security through infrastructure testing and personal safety training.
The university performed a lockdown infrastructure test Feb. 15, which focused on technical system functionality campus-wide. The test checked the reliability of campus lockdown systems in charge of key card access, door locks, dispatch and ground staff reaction time. Physical plant manager Jeffrey Goebel is largely involved in the testing’s execution and evaluation.
“Our campus has two different brands of card access systems, plus has approximately 44 doors that are typically unlocked manually during the daytime of the academic year,” Goebel said.
During a lockdown, key card access is shut down, save for special cards issued to law enforcement. The auto-lock feature of doors campus-wide was a focus of Monday’s test.
“We also practiced sending our building services staff to the manually unlocked doors to observe their response times,” he said. “We’ll have different conditions depending on the time of day of an event, so we’ll need to practice this over a variety of scenarios.”
While similar tests have occurred on campus since 2010, they’ve evolved over the years.
“The Feb. 15 test was more comprehensive than any we’ve previously done,” Goebel said.
One new aspect of the test was checking a new “easy button” developed to help lockdown situations run smoother.
“During a lockdown drill last summer at our Wellness Center, we became aware of the challenges faced by the dispatcher in not only manipulating the two computer programs for the lockdown, but also, simultaneously sending an e2Campus message, calling 911, talking on the radio to our patrol officers and taking incoming phone calls,” Goebel said.
Goebel wanted to alleviate the huge workload and create a more efficient lockdown system.
“I challenged Kim Owen … an IT person in the physical plant, to create an ‘easy button’ that would run a script that would perform all clicking around in one of the computer programs,” Goebel said.
Owen’s result was a single-button press that could accomplish the lockdown in 5 seconds — a significant improvement compared to the minute it took in the past.
Goebel is still compiling results, but he’s already found points that need tweaking.
“We had approximately 10 failure points,” he said. “Four of these were doors that locked but did not open with the law enforcement cards. Six others are locations that will need changes made.”
Goebel is aiming to correct test failures and try again during spring break.
MSUM’s emergency management team and Public Safety work year-round to test and help strengthen campus safety. Interim Director of Public Safety Karen Mehnert-Meland leads the team, which offers active shooter and lockdown situation training.
“We meet regularly, and we look at processes and procedures and preparing our campus in case of emergency,” Meland said.
In December, a video was sent to faculty and staff regarding what to do if shots were fired on campus. Soon, the video will be released to students, and Public Safety will offer follow-up training, which is different than what students might expect.
“Perhaps what students were taught in K-12 was to shelter in place, but with everything they’ve learned in the last couple years, what they recommend is really a ‘run, hide, fight’ mentality,” Meland said.
This training focuses on personal safety relative to each person’s unique situation.
“If it was a lockdown situation and you were in a safe place, then sheltering in place would be the appropriate action, but if you were near the shooting and had a chance to escape, the protocol is to run. Get away from it,” she said.
For Meland, imagining different scenarios is the best preparation, especially if one knows the nearest exit routes.
“In an active shooter situation, the goal of that individual is to kill as many people as possible. … You have three choices in the situation. What choice makes the most sense?” Meland said. “In that short amount of time, you might be making multiple choices. Most active shooter situations end in 15 minutes or less.”
For Meland, personal safety and awareness are imperative in any crisis situation.
“Make choices personally to keep yourself safe so our law enforcement can do what they need to do,” she said.
Until the training video is officially released to students, it can be found on Public Safety’s website, and a shortened version titled “Run, Hide, Fight” can be found on YouTube.
But active shooter and lockdown trainings aren’t the extent of MSUM’s safety efforts.
“Every fall, we do a safety walk through campus,” Meland said.
The walks check MSUM’s atmosphere to see how safe it feels.
“We come up with a whole list of action items to improve on and make sure that those happen,” she said.
Bluelights on campus are checked monthly, along with other emergency equipment, from exit signs to fire extinguishers. Fire drills are also implemented campus-wide.
“We keep a record of those inspections to make sure the equipment is working properly,” Meland said.
Public Safety makes available an annual clery report, which can be found on its website. The report tracks campus crime statistics, trainings and fire reports.
MSUM also offers e2campus, a notification system that sends text messages to subscribers with emergency information.
“E2Campus is something I would love every student on campus to be signed up for,” Meland said. “All students don’t necessarily check their email.”
Sergeants like Mitchell Osland are often responsible for making the decision to send out the notifications based on input Public Safety receives from on and off campus.
“Most of us monitor the police radio,” Osland said. “(Law enforcement) are very good about letting us know when something is going on.”
“We have a really strong working relationship with local agencies, especially (the) Moorhead Police Department,” she said.
Meland encourages students to report suspicious persons and activities.
“If everyone in the campus community took an interest and reported things, it would help strengthen us because then we could check into situations,” she said. “We can’t always prevent criminals from doing things, but we can maybe stop something sooner or investigate something sooner if people reported that. … If you’re uncomfortable, pay attention to that feeling.”
For Osland, a good philosophy is “better safe than sorry.”