Posted: December 6, 2016 at 4:37 pm
By Connor Schlegel, Dom Smarto and Connor Murray
After eleven students were hospitalized as a result of a knife attack at Ohio State University Monday, campus safety is once again in the spotlight for colleges across the country.
Thanks to an ambitious SGA senator, West Virginia University is in the process of becoming just the fifth university nationwide to receive national emergency preparedness accreditation.
Following the tragic shooting at Pulse night club in Orlando, Florida, over the summer, SGA senator Tyler Brewster began mulling a disturbing thought: What if something like that happened in Morgantown?
“I remember watching the news and thinking that could easily happen in Morgantown, a shooting, especially in a gun-heavy culture like West Virginia,” Brewster said. “It’s sad to say, but something like that might happen here.”
That prompted him to take action. Brewster asked his dad, who works in the emergency management department of the VA about potential action plans that could benefit WVU.
His dad alerted him to the Emergency Management Accreditation Program, which sets national standards for emergency management through a stringent peer review process.
Brewster decided to bring the program to UPD’s attention in an effort to ensure the school’s policy is up to snuff.
“I figured the program would be beneficial for WVU because it would have our police department focus on things they’re good at, but even more so focus on things that they’re lacking,” Brewster said.
UPD Chief Bob Roberts liked the look of the program enough that he passed it along to Cpt. Danny Camden, who traveled to Savannah, Georgia, last month to become a certified accreditation manager.
Camden said learning the program’s material was valuable, but the fact that the program allowed him to network with other university police departments from around the country was useful as well.
“There were several other higher education institutions there: Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, a couple universities out of Texas were there and some others as well,” Camden said.
“I was able to talk to some of the other institutions and get a feel for what we’re doing compared to what they’re doing, and get a real good review of the accreditation standards.”
Now that he has his EMAP certification, Cpt. Camden is able to complete a solo evaluation of WVU’s disaster preparedness, which he said he anticipates should be finished by the end of this school year.
At that point, a group of independent assessors will come in and dictate the steps WVU needs to take to reach national accreditation status.
“It looks like it would definitely be something good. Any time you can reach a level that compares you to a standard that’s national, I think it’s a good thing,” Camden said.
Brewster said becoming the fifth school in the country with EMAP certification would set WVU apart when it comes to campus safety, which is something the school could tout to potential students.
“Not only does this make our police department understand what it’s lacking or what it’s good at, but it also makes the institution look good on a national level,” he said.
“The university can then say they’ve taken the necessary steps to make our campus safer than the average campus.”
Students looking for more information on what to do in an active shooter/emergency situation can find guidelines on UPD’s web site.