National Preparedness Month Provides Opportunity for CU to Focus on Planning Initiatives
Athens, W.Va. – Concord University, in an effort to coordinate with both federal and state emergency preparedness initiatives, focused on and evaluated plans to respond to emergencies on the Athens campus in September as part of “National Preparedness Month.”
Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, National Preparedness Month’s goal is to reach out to businesses, schools, and to the public to take steps in preparing for emergencies.
According to CU Chief of Police Mark Stella, the police force has done much over the years to keep Concord safe. “An Emergency Preparedness Team, consisting of administrators from a wide variety of areas, meets on a regular basis to discuss strategies to manage emergency situations. Local law enforcement officers are invited to select meetings, and the Team stays abreast of ‘best practices’ by communicating with other institutions and organizations throughout the state and region. Our police officers, our first line of defense, are trained at the State Police Academy. We discuss safety initiatives within our Concord community, and we distribute materials—either a flip chart or manual designed by our police officers—to provide basic instructions for various scenarios.”
Communications is the key to keeping people safe as well, he says. “A communication tactic can be as simple as word-of-mouth … to phone trees, e-mail, or text messages. Moreover, we have installed sirens on campus and beefed up our routers for wireless accessibility for those with laptop computers,” noted Stella.
“We encourage those on campus to subscribe to our text messaging system,” he said. “There could be a time when you wouldn’t be around to hear the sirens or wouldn’t be able to check your e-mail so this would be a great alternative.”
Communication is also why the radio system is important. Concord has a $30,000 radio system which can transmit in analogue—which communicates to everyone with a radio—and digital mode—for communication to other police forces around the community.
“We have the best radio system around,” he said. “It was definitely worth the price because you can’t put a price on the safety of our students.
“For those inside a building, if something happens to go wrong, people will be alerted by the emergency sirens. A fast wail means that the school is in lockdown mode. When this tone is heard, students are urged to get away from windows and stay in the room until further notified. A steady three-minute tone will then sound signifying that the school is no longer in lockdown.
“Unfortunately, because of events at Virginia Tech and other places, we all understand the relevance and importance of preparedness for situations that may involve a shooter on campus. Therefore, our police officers are equipped with side-arms,” Stella emphasized. “Our police force has extensive training. The state requires 16 hours of training each year,” Stella said, “but we double that with additional training on campus that includes drills and mock emergencies. We learn from the drills and refine our procedures on a continual basis.
“Something could happen here so people need to be aware of what could happen and what they need to do,” he said. “That is what National Preparedness Month is about. It’s not about making people afraid. Our focus is to prepare for situations so that if something does go wrong we’ll have a game plan,” concluded Stella.
Governor Joe Manchin, in a statement released on September 12, noted: “Preparedness starts in the home. But we must also prepare our businesses and our entire community for what can happen. Preparedness saves lives. It ensures that we will be able to recover in the event of a major emergency. Disasters can set us back years. But if we are ready for the worst, not only is the damage limited, we can get back on our feet much quicker.”
President George Bush, in a proclamation released on August 26, stated: “During National Preparedness Month, we also honor our Nation's police officers, firefighters, and emergency personnel for their hard work and commitment to protecting others. As first responders, they have demonstrated the true meaning of heroism by taking great risks to safeguard our communities, and all Americans are grateful for their efforts.”
CONCORD UNIVERSITY NOTES: Persons with disabilities should contact Nancy Ellison, 1-304-384-6086 or 1-800-344-6679, extension 6086 if special assistance or help is required for access to an event scheduled by the University on campus.
Andrea Meador, a sophomore majoring in public relations wrote this news release. Her hometown is Ghent.