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Safety Issues on University Campuses[Part_2]

In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre, universities around the country are looking at safety issues on their own campuses. In this installment of our Sense of Community series, KSMU's Missy Shelton talks with safety officials at two local universities about how Virginia Tech has affected their security plans. She also visits with them about serving on the governor's campus security task force.

As news spread on April 16th that a single gunman had killed 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech University, Missouri's Governor appointed a campus security task force. The group's charge? To find out how secure the state's public and private university campuses are, identify areas for improvement and present those recommendations to the governor by August. Kevin French is a member of the task force and is the director of safety and security at Drury University in Springfield. He says the task force is looking at how to prevent and respond to tragedies like the one at Virginia Tech but he says the group is also looking at how to respond to other emergencies.

Regardless of what kind of emergency may occur, French says communication is an important aspect of responding to the crisis. Thanks to a Drury trustee, the university now has the ability to send emergency text messages. But he says having that technology presents a whole new set of challenges.

French says that's why there's a need for redundant communication systems. For example, text messaging works for students who sign up to receive the messages but even then, it may not do much good at 3 o'clock in the morning when students are asleep.

Like Missouri State University, Drury is examining the security of its classroom doors. French says not all doors have locks and some doors have windows that could pose a problem.

French says Drury administrators are looking for ways to secure all doors.

Besides locking doors, French also raises concerns about the role of faculty and staff in an emergency.

French says that while faculty members understand their responsibility is to keep students safe, they may not know the precise details of how to do that. He says he wants to see additional emergency training for faculty and staff. He says Drury is considering creating a checklist.

French says one of the best prevention measures any campus can undertake is identifying students who may be struggling with mental health problems and provide those students with proper care.