DPS implements broader safety program to prepare for active shooters
In response to deadly active-shooter situations occurring across the United States in places like Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, the Department of Public Safety at Southeast has expanded its comprehensive plan for active-shooter prevention and preparedness.
Some of these initiatives include stricter door-locking policy enforcement after hours, offering small-group active shooter training and an increase in their community presence at campus events and activities, residence halls and academic buildings.
Assistant Director of Public Safety and Transit Capt. Kenneth Gullett gave insight into the implementation of safety policies.
According to Gullett, oftentimes, faculty and students who had after-hours permits for entering campus facilities were under the impression the doors they entered through were locking automatically after closing.
This year during their after-hours patrols, DPS officers are stopping to remind faculty, staff, and students to lock building doors behind them as they see them leave, a practice many people on campus had previously thought was automated, and therefore unnecessary.
DPS is also strictly enforcing the practice of locking building and classroom entrances once classes are in session.
“It is recommended that classrooms be locked during class time, so in the event that we do have that [active shooter] situation occur on our campus, the likelihood of injuries drops,” Gullet said.
DPS encourages students on campus to follow this rule when locking dorm rooms to prevent on-campus burglaries.
Active-shooter training is also available through DPS, the course material for which is provided by the Department of Homeland Security. DPS has four active shooter trainers on staff who provide two-hour group training sessions.
These sessions involve an hour-long educational presentation and one hour of technical, hands-on training. Gullett urges students, faculty and staff members interested to contact DPS officer Jason Morgan to set up a session.
“We find that it has been beneficial because you can use that no matter where you are,” Gullet said. “At movie theaters, Walmart, church and any other function that you may go to, you’ve gotten that training and you have an idea of what to do in the event of [an active-shooter situation].”
Another aspect of DPS’ enhanced safety program involves a stronger community presence from DPS officers. Uniformed DPS officers have been instructed to walk the halls of academic buildings during weekday class hours.
“That's just another step that we're taking to ensure issues aren't occurring in the building,” Gullet said. “It also acts as a deterrent, so that if somebody who has it in their mind that they're going to do something sees a uniformed officer walking through the building, they may think twice about it.”
In an attempt to make their presence known, DPS has started the Adopt-a-Hall program, in which a small group of DPS officers has been assigned two to three residence halls each. The officers’ purpose is to act as a reassuring presence, mingle with and get to know students, eat meals with them in their dining halls, attend campus events and activities and to act as an overall personal resource for students within their designated halls.
“We’re here to make sure our institution is a safe place for everybody,” Gullet said. “One thing I tell our parents is that once their student comes here, and until they graduate, we’re going to treat them like they’re ours.”
Gullett said throughout his years at Southeast, he and his staff members have experienced situations in which they have helped students and even some parents navigate personal issues regarding their families, relationships, mental health, and financial struggles.
Southeast will be hosting a ‘campus safety day’ on September 18 from 11 a.m to 1:30 p.m. between Kent Library and Academic Hall and will involve agencies including DPS, Missouri Highway Patrol, and the Cape Girardeau Fire Department.