FSU Police Chief Details University’s Crisis Intervention Plan

On October 2, 2015 a mass shooting occurred on the campus of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Students were asked what their religious affiliation was and based on their answers were shot. It was reported to be ten deaths, including the perpetrator Christopher Harper-Mercer, and nine non-fatal injuries.

A week later, two more mass shootings occurred at Northern Arizona University and Texas Southern University. Tragedy after tragedy seems to happen a little too often. The Bottom Line reached out to FSU Police Chief Cynthia Smith to learn the Frostburg State University’s processes for dealing with active shooters on campus and other emergencies.

FSU’s Crisis Intervention Plan, last revised in August 2010, details what steps FSU officers, faculty, and students need to take after a crisis. However, the Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP) is a tool FSU officers use in times of emergencies and crises. While The Crisis Intervention Plan can be publicly accessed, The Emergency Preparedness Plan is for officers’ use only. In case of a real emergency, officers need to be able to respond in such a way that any potential threat will be unaware of their actions. These plans are revised annually. Chief Smith notes, “Any plan, whether an emergency response plan or crisis management plan, should really be a framework that doesn’t change much unless something changes significantly.”

Chief Smith is responsible for and manages the EPP alongside with the executive committee, legal counsel, facilities, and any others who may be responding to emergencies. Smith says, “The plan is only part of the picture.” In addition, officers go through training to prepare themselves for crises. She goes on to say, “Training is a big piece of it.” FSU officers train annually – including preparedness for emergencies and training for likely scenarios. An example of a likely scenario includes active shooter drills. Officers train at Mountain Ridge High School because of their partnership with law enforcement. Whether there is an emergency at FSU, Mountain Ridge, or Beall Elementary, all officers are well-equipped with the tools and precautions necessary from their training. In the event of an emergency, FSU officers are the first to respond, then requests backup from Frostburg City Police, Allegany County Sheriff Office, Maryland State Police, and any sworn police officer in the vicinity.

Fortunately, officers have not had to act upon the EPP in its entirety, but there have been instances where some aspects of the plan were used. Lieutenant Scott Donahue points out there are different parts of command that take action: EMS, social media, logistics, and etc. To help prevent any suspicious activity turn into a crisis, students should look for warning signs. Smith says, “Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t look right then it probably isn’t.” Students, as well as faculty and staff, should always keep their eyes open and call the police or a trusted adult without any hesitation. In addition, the anonymous tip line is available as well for those who may feel uncomfortable making a report. Lt. Donahue says, “Be personally prepared.” FSU has a training tool called “Shots Fired.” This video is a guide on how to make sure you are personally prepared if case of an emergency and shows step-by-step instructions on how to protect yourself as well as others.

In the case of an emergency, the police department is notified “relatively quickly,” Smith says. But, she stresses, it depends on whenever the first call is received. Never assume someone else has called and made a report and understand communication is key. It doesn’t matter how many times a call may come through, it is vital to make a report whenever you see and/or hear something suspicious.

To prepare students, faculty, and staff, officers conduct presentations upon request. These presentations can be tailored to a particular group—classes and student groups. Students and parents can stay up-to-date with any type of school emergency by signing up for “E2Campus.” This tool, called “Burg Alert,” sends text alerts whenever there is an emergency, delay, or school closing. In addition, always check your email for these alerts and updates.

Check out the “Shots Fired” video at www.frostburg.edu/admin/police/shotsfired/

And sign up for “Burg Alerts” at https://www.frostburg.edu/computing/services/burg-alerts/

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