Know what to do in an emergency — a tornado or an armed person shooting on campus — and if a person or behavior is suspicious, call campus police, Justin Gaines, University of North Georgia’s chief of police, told a small group at the school’s Gainesville campus Wednesday.
Gaines presented the details of UNG’s emergency response plan after a brief lockdown on the campus in Oakwood last week.
The plan includes medical, weather, train wrecks, hazardous spills and fires in addition to a person shooting on campus.
Gaines told the group knowing the buildings where they are, knowing the campus and having a basic plan is critical.
Everyone’s first response tends to overcome their knowledge, he said. Denial comes before deliberation, he added.
“Everybody does it. I did it, and I’m on the beat,” he said.
UNG’s Gainesville campus was locked down May 11 for about an hour as law enforcement officers looked for a suspect in two armed robberies in Gainesville.
The man, Anthony Shivers, was found in the area of Tumbling Creek Road and arrested.
Gaines noted it was not an “active shooter,” but he said faculty and students who were on campus reacted properly, and that several agencies cooperated in the search.
He said a “lessons learned” report is being prepared about the search as a way to focus on improvements in the emergency plan.
“To think that that’s the only time that’ll happen is to stick our heads in the sand,” Gaines said.
He said one of his department’s strongest messages is “see something, say something.” If students or faculty notice an individual or group behaving oddly or suspiciously, they should report it to police.
Gaines said two factors determine whether a person is at the college legitimately. One is a “valid reason to be here,” which he said can just be for a walk around campus, and the second is a valid ID.
Campus police can ask anyone for ID and about their reason for being on campus.
He also said psychological crisis is now more common on campus.
“Every year we deal with these situations more and more often,” he said.
He said, “There’s nothing illegal about writing dark language. Edgar Allan Poe made a living on it.”
Substance abuse contributes to that problem and is “a big deal,” he said. Too often, he said, students attend parties with piles of prescription drugs and “have no idea” what they may have taken or its effects.
Responding to a question, Gaines said if students or faculty are on campus during a lockdown and come to a locked building, they should not try to get in. Rather, they should “get off campus,” he said.
Similarly, if they are inside a building — even if the outside doors are locked — they should go to an office or other room, go inside and lock that door.
“The idea is not to make yourself a target,” Gaines said.
He pointed out that the most common “emergencies” are severe weather and medical problems.
He also said his officers “train a lot with medicine” and have materials in their cars to help in a number of situations.
In the case of bad weather, he said, each building has an area designated as a “severe weather shelter,” which should be used.
Those “are not tornado-proof,” he said, “but it’s the best place to go.”
Gaines also urged students and faculty to program the campus police number into their phones — 706-864-1500.
“If you can remember our number, I can get you help quicker,” he said.
Lanier Tech was also locked down during the search.
“We remained in lockdown until receiving the all clear from public safety officials,” Lanier Tech President Ray Perren wrote in an email. “Our focus during the lockdown was the safety of our students, campus visitors and employees.”