April 19, 2007
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s
Safety and Security Questions and Answers
Did UNC offer assistance to Virginia Tech?
Yes. Chancellor Moeser sent a message to President Steger to express his deepest sympathy on behalf of Carolina. He also offered aid and assistance from the University including the resources of the Center for Child and Family Health, a consortium of UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke University and N.C. Central University that has expertise in helping people who have experienced a trauma. The University also offered the assistance of the staffs in the offices of student affairs and university relations.
Our student leaders from Virginia collaborated to organize a moving candlelight vigil on April 18 in the Pit that attracted several hundred students who gathered to pay their respects to the victims and to express support for the Virginia Tech community. We have also heard from Virginia Tech alumni and friends who live in the Triangle area, had never been on our campus before, but came to attend the vigil. They say they felt a special bond with Carolina for this gesture by our students.
Chancellor Moeser described the impact of the tragedy here in Chapel Hill in an email message to the campus community. To read the message, go to http://www.unc.edu/news/archives/apr07/virginiatech041707.html
How will Carolina prevent such a tragedy from occurring on campus?
Carolina is not immune from what happened at Virginia Tech. No university campus is a safe haven. Campus safety is always a major priority here, and something that the University always strives to improve. We are already learning valuable lessons from the Virginia Tech tragedy and will be vigilant about applying them to our own plans for protecting and informing the University community about public safety and health issues. We engage in a similar process every time we face an incident or situation on our own campus. The University is committed to providing the safest campus environment that we can for the campus community.
What is the role of the University’s Department of Public Safety?
The Department of Public Safety exists to serve a vibrant University community of about 37,000 students, faculty and staff. In many ways, the University functions like a small but complex city. We rely on the campus police force to help prevent crimes, protect our students, employees and visitors, safeguard the investment the people of North Carolina have made in the University, and enforce the law.
We are fortunate to have a very dedicated campus police force that makes a significant contribution to campus life. The department has earned well-deserved recognition for its successful approach to community policing from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
Our nationally accredited campus police force includes a full complement of law enforcement and transportation management units. We have more than 50 sworn officers including a detective team, special bike patrols, a community response unit that focuses on issues such as larceny reduction as well as traffic and pedestrian safety, a dog specially trained in explosives detection, a full-service 911 response center, a silent witness program to encourage the reporting of suspicious activities, and extensive mutual aid agreements with area municipal and county agencies.
In recent years Carolina has installed about 185 emergency call boxes across the campus in major quadrangles, pedestrian areas, and parking decks. The call boxes are nine feet tall and have a blue light on top. Anyone on campus is encouraged to use these call boxes to report suspicious activity or to seek help. Users push the button to automatically alert police where they are. Police will respond immediately.
Public safety officials and student government leaders are also working together this spring to update how those call boxes are maintained. To see current call box locations, go to:
Public safety, energy services, and telecommunications staffs twice annually conduct a campus lighting tour with student leaders to identify any problem areas that need improvement or attention. These tours have resulted in numerous changes, landscaping modifications, and new lights over the years to coincide with a major construction boom.
We also have an express bus service that serves students, faculty and staff with continuous loop transportation between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. Another call-for-service shuttle system takes students and employees, including those with special needs, to campus locations 24 hours daily. Both services augment the fare-free services provided by Chapel Hill Transit.
Public safety works closely with the student affairs staff to educate students in residence halls and other settings about crime and safety issues. A crime prevention specialist offers rape defense training for women. Several campus departments offer self-defense training and related resources. The University also has an extensive workplace violence prevention policy in place. See http://hr.unc.edu/Data/SPA/employeerelations/harassment/violence
We share safety tips on the public safety web page and produce an annual security report, which includes crime statistics. The most recent report is at http://www.dps.unc.edu/securityreport/
Do students have access to emergency health-care resources?
The South Orange Rescue Squad operates a satellite location on campus. The Campus Health Service is open for students from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends during fall and spring semesters and on weekdays only during summer months. After hours, students may call the main number, 966-2281, to reach UNC HealthLink, the UNC Health Care nurse advice hotline. (Other campus resources for faculty and staff include the University Employee Health Occupational Health Clinic, 966-9119.) And the campus is also home to the extensive trauma-level resources of the UNC Hospitals and UNC Health Care System.
Are UNC students allowed to have guns on campus if they have a permit?
No. In North Carolina, it is a felony to possess a firearm on any campus. A student with firearms on campus is subject to arrest by police and action under the Student Honor Code. Here is a link to the University’s policy:
Are campus police prepared to deal with the threat of a gunman?
Since the Columbine High School incident, police forces nationwide changed training procedures to anticipate similar scenarios. Our public safety department goes through a rigorous training schedule that includes responding to an active shooter situation and getting emergency medical personnel who are on the scene to victims so the can provide medical attention.
How does the University deal with troubled students or individuals who could potentially pose a safety risk?
When situations involving students suggest that their behavior poses danger to either themselves or to the community, our Emergency Evaluation and Action Committee is contacted. That group’s review of the situation can include psychological evaluations, witness statements, and conversations with the student and his or her parents. The key question is whether the student's behavior poses a danger to the student or the University community and if the danger warrants emergency action. The student may be able to remain on campus with some safeguard measures in place to reduce the risk of future harm to self or others. Other emergency actions can include banning the student from campus until the risk has been reduced to the point that the student can return safely to participate in campus life.
These kinds of situations are brought to our attention by parents, faculty, students, and other administrators. We also provide information to faculty on how to respond to students who may exhibit behavior that could be considered disruptive or dangerous.
To see the policy on this topic, go to http://deanofstudents.unc.edu/policies/sub.policies.emergency.html
What can visitors expect when they come to campus? May they walk into buildings or classrooms?
Carolina is an open campus. As a public institution, we have always taken pride in providing the people of North Carolina and beyond with access to the University’s people and resources. The University attracts visitors with diverse interests including cultural events, educational venues, libraries, patient facilities associated with our health affairs schools and UNC Health Care, and athletics.
A visitor may not walk into a classroom uninvited. Certain buildings have access restrictions, depending on the nature of the work that takes place within them. Research laboratories and patient clinics are just two examples. Student residence halls are locked 24 hours daily and require a key card to enter. Most classroom and academic buildings are locked at night. Some buildings remain open for academic or student life programs after 5 p.m.
Would the University lock down the campus if faced with a serious threat?
Chancellor Moeser or his designee has the authority to close public access to the campus because of any situation that poses an imminent danger to the University community.
In making that difficult choice, we would have to balance the sense of openness and transparency synonymous with the Carolina experience against the vital need to adequately protect the safety of our community.
How would that decision be implemented?
With a main campus of over 700 acres and about 400 buildings, we cannot completely cut off access to the entire University in response to any one situation.
But we can isolate particular areas of campus where activity of concern may be occurring using a variety of law enforcement and transportation personnel to limit access, create perimeters and warn campus community members to stay where they are or to follow other safety procedures that are most appropriate for that particular situation.
How do people know what to do in an emergency?
University police regularly share safety tips with the campus community when specific events trigger a warning. In addition, students, faculty and staff are encouraged to follow tips and procedures outlined on a downloadable poster on the Department of Environment, Health and Safety website, http://ehs.unc.edu/pdf/emergency_poster.pdf
The poster includes instructions for evacuating buildings and other situations.
Who monitors safety and public health issues facing the University?
When criminal activity or other situations on campus appear to pose a threat to the safety of the University community, the Emergency Warning Committee quickly assesses the situation and, when appropriate, activates our Emergency Warning and Communication Plan. We place a very high priority on quickly sharing the facts about safety threats. And this group meets regularly to assess and update plans for a wide range of potential emergency situations. The committee will meet next week to assess the University’s plans in light of the situation at Virginia Tech. That will follow up extensive discussion that has already occurred among the Chancellor’s Cabinet, the Chancellor’s Student Advisory Committee and other groups immediately following the tragedy in Blacksburg.
If faced with similar circumstances at UNC, how would the campus and community be informed?
When a safety or security emergency emerges on campus, we communicate the facts as quickly as possible to students, faculty, staff, parents, and others by choosing from a menu of available tools based on the situation.
We send campus-wide e-mails marked “Urgent” and broadcast voice mail messages. If a crime, event or expected weather emergency was occurring on campus that required an immediate warning, we would use those methods and others, including prominent postings on the University’s main web page, www.unc.edu, or the Department of Public Safety’s page, http://www.dps.unc.edu, which reserves a space for emergency information.
Officers patrolling campus are trained to launch building-by-building notifications or make public address announcements from their vehicles.
Emergency building liaisons coordinated by the Department of Environment, Health and Safety may also contact occupants of their buildings.
Residence hall assistants and human resources facilitators in campus departments may also relay safety messages and instructions.
Other sources of information include the University’s Weather and Emergency Hotline, 843-1234. People driving within about a two-mile radius of campus might also hear messages broadcast on our low-frequency traveler’s advisory radio station, 1610-AM, or see warnings, messages or updates on the University Access Channel, broadcast on the cable television systems in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. Other communications might involve face-to-face notifications in residence hall or workplace settings.
We are also aggressively exploring options for adding to that list of available communication tools. This week, bids to purchase a new campus siren system will be issued. The preferences in our request for proposals include provision for a system that will permit prominent public address announcements in the heart of campus.
We are also investigating new and different ways to reach students using technology. A successful pilot project in the Department of Housing and Residential Education involves text-messaging using a system that integrates cell phones with campus resources. The system currently serves about 400 students and will be expanded more broadly on campus. And we are exploring the possibility of a University presence on the popular website Facebook for use only in an emergency situation.
Will Carolina change its approach to campus safety in light of the Virginia Tech tragedy?
We always expect to make changes to make our plans better. Chancellor Moeser and other administrators most directly involved with campus safety began asking questions about the University’s current plans literally as the Virginia Tech situation started unfolding. Discussions have already been intense and focused on strengthening already extensive plans and procedures in the future. We expect all universities will learn a great deal about their own plans as details of exactly what happened at Virginia Tech emerge.
We are always looking at best practices in evaluating our own plans. These events present an opportunity to educate and remind the campus community about safety issues and the importance of reporting suspicious activity and using good judgment in their daily activities. We expect individuals to be responsible for their own safety and security by being careful, watching out for each other, and reporting suspicious activities and persons. We don’t intend to let this opportunity to improve safety on campus pass us by.
Like President Bowles, we also strongly support the new statewide task force just formed under Attorney General Roy Cooper’s leadership to examine the next steps that public and private campuses in North Carolina can take to enhance safety.