CNU PD discusses emergency response plans following ODU bomb threat last Thursday
On Nov. 29. 2018 a bomb threat was made at ODU which caused the campus to close until 3 p.m. that day. No injuries were reported from this incident, but the headlines on Thursday caused many to question what CNU’s response to a potential threat would be.
The Captain’s Log got a chance to sit down with CNU Police Chief Dan Woloszynowski and CNU Director of Emergency Services Tammy Sommer to make clear both our potential response and the proactive measures being taken to prevent these incidents.
WHEN DISASTER STRIKES
They explained that CNU has an emergency management plan, that includes an emergency response board made up of campus faculty and staff. This board not only deals with crisis management but also weather related emergencies. The Captain’s Log spoke with representatives from the board following the hurricane evacuation in September.
“We have an all hazards plan, a crisis and emergency management plan that we are required to have. In that plan we have various annexes that deal with a variety of things be they weather related or a bomb threat,” Sommer explained.
For safety reasons, both Sommer and Woloszynowski did not want share the specifics of the plan, but ensured The Captain’s Log that there was one in place.
A COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
They also shared that this plan is comprehensive, looking not only at the safety of students and departments, but their needs also.
Discussing the event that happened on Thursday at ODU Sommer said, “[Getting food to students] was their top priority yesterday outside of law enforcement.”
Sommer said that the emergency response team asks the following questions: “What do agencies on campus need? What do our students need? What do the departments need that we can coordinate from this side of the street if our campus is on lockdown, if police are doing what police do in running down the threat?”
Although there is a response, both Sommer and Woloszynowski wanted to make clear the proactive measures being put in place as well.
They shared that the campus undergoes at least one annual exercise for emergency response, and a bi-annual testing of emergency response notifications.
Last year, CNU performed three exercises. Of those three, two were a accidental mass casualty (like an explosion in Forbes), and an active shooter exercise. In the active shooter exercise they also had shots fired in multiple locations, including Christopher Newport Hall, the President’s House and the Freeman Center, preparing CNUPD for situations where there services may be split.
These drills are further supported by Newport News Fire, Police and EMS, as well as Riverside.
Another drill they perform is the testing of the emergency notification system. This is tested once every semester and then again during the annual statewide tornado drill. This ensures that adequate communication can reached to students in a timely manner if an emergency were to occur.
As far as further prevention specific to bomb threats, Woloszynowski said that CNUPD participates with state, local and federal partners in monitoring social media for potential threats. This participation includes receiving a daily report with intel.
If something were concerning, these programs would be available to respond and have in past.
However, Woloszynowski hopes that this dependency on these programs for intel will be alleviated “sooner rather than later,” so CNUPD can do the best they can to serve the community.
“I would like to put in play a more robust intelligence and crime analysis approach to crime prevention.” He also said that he would like to take a step forward in technology and innovation.
A COMMUNITY EFFORT
Woloszynowski explained, though, that the best monitors of social media are students themselves.
“If you have any concerns whatsoever an officer will respond and take your information and evaluate it,” Woloszynowski said.
Woloszynowski and Sommer shared that although CNUPD can be reached through their email and their silent witness program, the best way to get in contact with PD is through calling at 757-594-7777.
“There is a person on the other side of that phone line 24 hours a day and they can get the resources where they need to be in the most efficient and effective manner,” Sommer said.
“We have gotten credible information this way and have been able to offset things from happening,” Sommer recalled.
Sommer and Woloszynowski also shared further crime prevention techniques CNU undergoes. Of these techniques they highlighted CNU’s certification as a Crime Prevention Campus, the bike program, community programs, and their Crisis Intervention Training.
CNU’s certification as a crime prevention campus means they have to have specific protocol in place for crime prevention. Some of these protocol include: (1) having a Department of Criminal Justice certified crime prevention specialist on staff (2) having an institutional crisis plan (3) having 24-hour patrols, and more. For more information about all of the protocol CNU follows, refer to the Department of Criminal Justice’s Website.
Woloszynowski shared the importance of the bike program, which brings police into campus on bikes, as opposed to them staying in their cars. “Visibility is a great part of prevention,” he shared, “It Increases contact, encourages relationships, engagements, gets them out of their cars and into areas they can’t go.”
Another aspect of their increase in visibility is their increase in community engagement through programs like the one they did the past semester with Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc. Providing a weekly food drive the police were able to connect with the fraternity, increase their visibility and give back to the community they serve.
Woloszynowski said that there will be more programs like this one to come next semester.
Finally, CNUPD is also fully trained in crisis intervention training, which is a special response that promotes de-escalation of incidents, potentially protecting everyone involved.
AN UNKNOWABLE THREAT
That said, both Woloszynowski and Sommer said there was only so much they could do in the form of preventing bomb threats, especially when they come from off campus.
“With bomb threats there’s not a lot you can do to be proactive, except to arm people with information, how they can best be reactive,” Woloszynowski said.
Further emphasizing the importance of campus responsibility Woloszynowski shared, “You may think, ‘I don’t want to bother anybody.’ Please bother us.”