Education Feature: Officials: CCC safety step ahead

By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer

Clovis Community College is ahead of a state safety plan to prepare colleges for a Virginia Tech-type event, a CCC official said.

Soon after the Virginia Tech shootings, new locks were installed on doors inside buildings at the college for a lock-down procedure in the event a gunman opens fire on campus, CCC Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness David Caffey said.

“People lock themselves inside interior rooms and get out of sight,” he said. “The main idea is to try to deprive a violent person of a target.”

But the college is still looking for a better way to inform students of emergencies, he said.

Gov. Bill Richardson outlined initiatives from the safety plan for New Mexico colleges and universities last week.

A campus safety task force Richardson created after the Virginia Tech shootings in April came up with the plan.

The task force will continue to review the needs of all schools, said Higher Education Department spokeswoman Laura Mulry.

“There are so many different campus settings and different resources out there,” she said. “I think the number-one thing would be to set up a campus safety task force and then begin to look at each of the issues that need to be addressed.”

Caffey said a new phone system installed in Clovis Community College’s offices has an intercom function and worked well during testing for emergencies last week. But there aren’t any units in classrooms.

“It’s just a half-measure — it’s better than nothing,” he said. “But we are looking into some way of putting a unit in each classroom.”

The only way to pass on emergency information now is for someone to go door to door around campus, he said.

Caffey said the college is looking at the possibility of installing electronic message boards on campus.

But finding a way to pay for it is a concern, he said.

“Some of the things we want to do have a cost to them,” he said.

Mulry said campuses can approach the task force with their needs and will try to address them.

“First, we have to find out what those (safety) gaps are and then identify what the resources that are needed are and where they might be filled,” she said.

Instructions on how to deal with a shooter on campus are in the college’s emergency procedures, which is available online.

Caffey said he would like to see drills to test the college’s safety plan to account for the human element in emergencies.

“Although all institutions are trying to give it a great deal of thought, emergency plans are still a work in progress,” he said.