St. Edward’s expands emergency preparedness on campus

St. Edward's University students barricaded themselves in a classroom. Nov. 1, 2016 (Courtesy: Jacob Rogers/Hilltop Views)
St. Edward's University students barricaded themselves in a classroom. Nov. 1, 2016 (Courtesy: Jacob Rogers/Hilltop Views)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The sound of normalcy was back at St. Edward’s University on Wednesday, after an armed intruder put the school on alert the night before. It’s exactly the kind of emergency campus safety leaders have been preparing for.

“What we’ve learned in these incidents is seconds count,” said Scott Burnotes, assistant vice president of Campus Safety. “We knew that our officers were responding, there was a risk to the campus, that there was going to be a significant amount of local officers from APD also responding, so we wanted to get people aware there was a big incident occurring on campus and to get to a safe area.”

Burnotes is filling a new role on campus. It’s part of a reorganizing of campus security. During emergency situations, Burnotes assists officers on scene, as well as communicates with campus leadership about what’s happening and what resources they may need.

The campus has also added another role, the director of Campus Resiliency, filled by Billy Atkins. Atkins has previous experience with the city of Austin’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. His job is to create plans before emergencies happen, whether it be a natural disaster or dangerous person on campus. “We’re looking at all four phases of an emergency: preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation – the things we can do to prevent things from ever happening,” said Burnotes.

They’ve also reorganized the police department. Rather than a police chief, a commander is now responsible for police operations. Burnotes says they’re working to create a culture of preparedness on campus.

“[We] just recently implemented some enhanced emergency response training, specifically what to do in an active shooter response,” he said. “This wasn’t an active shooter response, but some of the protective measures we teach are applicable in this situation.”

They’ve reformatted content of the training, streamlined topics covered and are customizing the audience experience. For example, they can conduct a walk-through of a space to identify which areas are more conducive for different protective actions.

Preston Campbell, a junior at St. Ed’s and an intramural coordinator at the Campus Rec, was on campus playing Dodgeball when the alert went out. “We actually went to a bathroom first that didn’t have a lock on it. We realized really quickly we shouldn’t stay there, so we quickly moved to another room.”

Campbell has gone through active shooter training at the university, and was able to help guide students throughout the emergency. He says many others on his staff and in the gym stepped up to help as well. “I would never expect them to put their life in danger for these other 30 people that are behind us, but they did in this case, they were ready to defend these people in the room.”

Shortly after 10 p.m., students were advised the situation was safe. Students interested in active shooter training can contact Campus Safety directly at (512) 448-8444 or email them at campus.safety@stedwards.edu.

You can also follow them on Twitter and ‘like’ them on Facebook, where training notices and other information is routinely posted.

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