University of Rhode Island statement on safety and emergency response

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KINGSTON, R.I. – April 18, 2007 – – The University of Rhode Island has a comprehensive, 72-page Emergency Management Guide designed for flexibility in dealing with a wide range of campus emergencies. In the aftermath of the massacre at Virginia Tech, officials are reviewing campus safety and emergency response protocols to determine if any changes need to be made.

While the type of emergency may vary considerably and include anything from natural disasters to criminal activity, the guide can be adapted to most situations.

Depending on the seriousness of the situation, the plan addresses the rapid notification of the entire campus community through the University’s email and voicemail systems, as well as the media. A shooting or similar crisis involving a suspect who is at large requires that the University issue an immediate safety alert to the campus community.

The plan also calls for telephone banks and public information hotlines. The University would also use its homepage on the web and issue recorded messages on its main lines, which would advise students, faculty, and staff on appropriate safety steps.

The current plan outlines three levels of emergency, with Level 3 being the most serious and which includes hostage and sniper situations. A Level 3 emergency would require the immediate formation of a crisis management group that would advise the president directly, a crisis management command post, which would be staffed 24 hours a day if necessary by the appropriate public safety, student affairs, facilities and administrators as necessary. The plan also calls for involvement of the American Red Cross and mental health professionals, when appropriate.

University officials who have a direct role in emergency response, review and update the plan regularly, including the University Departments of Public Safety, Safety and Risk Management, Student Affairs, Health Services, Facilities, and Communications. Departments are currently reviewing individual departmental procedures, and groups will be meeting at the end of the week and early next week to discuss URI’s emergency response plans and emergency communications protocols.

According to the emergency plan, all departments involved in crisis management would work with the University’s Department of Communications to notify the University community of an emergency in the most comprehensive and timely manner.

Phone trees exist for notification of central administration and the deans of the University’s colleges who could contact their departments and faculty. In addition to its technology resources, the University can employ its police and security personnel to make announcements from their cars.

If a threat occurred within a residence hall, the hall directors and/or resident assistants would call URI police immediately. Campus police would then call South Kingstown and/or Narragansett Police for assistance, if required.

Student Life staff would mobilize and work with residence hall staff and hall directors to reach students, door to door, if necessary. Police and security would also be engaged for residence hall and academic building notification. All residence halls are equipped with exterior entrance card access readers which are activated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

URI police have direct and simultaneous communications compatibility with state and local police, fire, hospitals, bomb squads and emergency management through the 800 MHZ system (integrated, multi-agency radio communication system) . In an extreme emergency, federal agencies can be added to the radio communication group.

The University has its own Police Department and Health Services, which oversees the student-run Emergency Services operation and ambulance. It also relies on a mutual aid network that includes South Kingstown, Narragansett, Providence and State Police, as well as local rescue and fire operations. URI relies on outside law enforcement agencies for assistance since University police do not carry firearms.

The University has an emergency phone network on its Kingston Campus that gives a caller instant access to the police department simply by pushing a large red button. The blue light emergency phones are located at 66 locations around campus. The average response time by police is 2 minutes. The University has also increased the number of security cameras on its campus.

To review the online version of the University of Rhode Island Emergency Guidebook, go to: