Stay safe on campus
• Have a plan
• Stay observant
• Take advantage of training opportunities
• Create an emergency kit
Source: UNG Public Safety Chief Justin Gaines
Every college or university is vulnerable to a natural or manmade disaster. University of North Georgia Public Safety Chief Justin Gaines wants to do something about that.
Gaines recently held several emergency preparedness meetings on the university’s Gainesville campus to tell faculty and staff how to keep themselves and students safe during an emergency.
According to Gaines, there are four key steps to emergency preparedness.
“Have a plan,” Gaines said. “Stay observant, take advantage of training opportunities and — this is me getting on my soapbox — but the last thing you really need to do is create an emergency kit.”
The university’s public safety department is focusing more attention on emergency readiness since Gaines became chief in January. He reorganized the department’s four divisions to include support services and central impact, patrol and investigations, professional services and emergency preparedness.
“We are working on filling a position right now for emergency preparedness,” Gaines said. “Basically this person will do trainings, put together fire safety plans, put together emergency evacuation plans, anything and everything that deals with emergency preparedness.”
Gaines said university safety officials are also improving emergency preparedness on the school’s campuses through implementation of new emergency notification systems. This includes a new UNG Alert System through campus emails.
“What this does is, if we have an armed assailant, a tornado, a winter weather event or something like that, you will get a phone call and text message free of charge,” he said.
Gaines said the department is also working to use the website to update students, faculty and parents about issues on campus, and it is implementing Alertus Desktop, a system which puts alert messages on every screen on campus.
The last emergency preparedness discussion Gaines held was Tuesday, during which time he gave important tips for every possible campus emergency.
In the event of a fire in a campus building, Gaines said the first thing to remember is not to use the elevators. Instructors can help handicapped students by getting them to a stairwell — which is usually fireproof for several hours — then going for help.
“Do not re-enter the building until given an all-clear,” Gaines said. “We may silence the alarm so we can talk. The alarm is loud, we already know there’s a fire, so we may go in and silence it. Just because it is silenced doesn’t mean there’s no more fire.”
In the event of a bomb threat, Gaines said it is important for faculty and staff to understand the building or campus may not be evacuated.
“What we’ve found over the years is a person will call in a bomb threat, everyone will evacuate, and then they’ll shoot you,” Gaines said. “There’s only been one case in American history in which a bomber has called in a bomb threat and the bomb exploded. That was the Centennial (Park) Olympic bombing.”
Gaines said more people have been hurt, injured or killed in bomb threats than in actual bombings, so police have to decide carefully how to react to a threat.
In the event of an armed assailant, Gaines said the first thing persons should do is make sure their phones are on silent. Phones are very likely to go off because of emergency alerts or concerned family members, and a ringing phone can alert the assailant to a person’s location.
Gaines also said hallways and atriums should be avoided if there is an armed assailant on campus. If a group can’t get out of the building safely, its members should turn off the lights and lock and barricade the door.
The chief thanked the faculty and staff members who attended the sessions and said his department cannot do its job fully without trained and educated employees on campus.
“You guys can really help us by being our extra eyes and ears,” he said. “We’re all a team here and we’re all working for the same thing.”