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APSU students return to safer campus in fall

Classes begin this month at Austin Peay State University. And although Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime statistics consistently indicate APSU is among the states safest universities, the Virginia Tech massacre last year was a national wake-up call.
Classes begin this month at Austin Peay State University. And although Tennessee Bureau of Investigation crime statistics consistently indicate APSU is among the state's safest universities, the Virginia Tech massacre last year was a national wake-up call.

During the summer, APSU officials reviewed current campus notification systems and began planning additions and improvements. Also, campus police have begun participating in “shooter in the building” simulations with the Clarksville Police Department so, if an emergency arises, the two departments can communicate clearly and perform as one unit.

The scheduled simulations will continue throughout the fall. “We're hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst,” said APSU Police Chief Lantz Biles. “Although we have a history of providing a safe environment for our students, we want to make it even safer.”

In July, APSU had more than 200 surveillance camerasthe most of any Tennessee university or college, according to the July 10, 2007, edition of The Tennessean. With more than 100 emergency phones, APSU was second in the state, behind the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with 150 phones.

In May, an audit of emergency-communication methods used by APSU was made to ascertain how the University gets emergency information to students, faculty, staff and the public. The inventory included:
*Electronic announcements via blast e-mail
*Moving message boards (then two: College Street and in front of the Dunn Center)
*APSU Web site
*Media notification, both electronic and telephone (via prearranged branch system), to radio, television, newspapers
*Emergency siren system with voice-override function
*Building coordinators
*Housing staff
*Channel 99, campus TV station
*WAPX-FM, campus radio station

Over the summer, APSU officials have been working to secure additional emergency notification venues, not all of which have been funded. However, APSU is in the process of implementing key additions to its emergency notification repertoire:
1. About 140 more surveillance cameras (besides the original 200) are being installed.
2. A second emergency siren system with a voice-override function will expand the areas of campus where messages can be heard.
3. A three-sided electronic moving message board, located in the heart of campus near the Morgan University Center, was installed this summer.
4. Blue lights are being added to the 28 emergency call boxes affixed to campus buildings. The blue lights flash when the phone is activated. Future plans call for 24 more stand-alone call boxes with blue lights in parking lots and high traffic areas.
5. Telephones are being installed in classrooms and computer labs, which will allow campus officials to use the University's telephone system to page groups of classrooms simultaneously in case of emergency and also enable students and faculty to call for assistance.
6. APSU has begun installation of a card-access control system that uses magnetic locks to secure facilities. These locks allow “lockdown” capability in emergency situations.
7. As soon as possible, APSU will offer text messaging as another means of emergency communication with students, faculty and staff. All who want to receive alert notifications via a text messaging service will be required to give selected University officials permission to make emergency contacts only.
8. In the future, wall-mounted emergency beacons in public corridors will enable officials to deliver a clear message to a select group of people or buildings, in the event of emergency.

“We are moving as quickly as possible to secure funds to make our campus even safer,” said Vice President for Finance and Administration Mitch Robinson. “And we will continue to search for new technology that will improve the speed and clarity with which we can to notify our students of any ongoing or impending emergency.”

For more information, telephone Robinson at (931) 221-7883. -- Dennie B. Burke