In case of a NU emergency, several alert plans stand at the ready

Safety and security are fundamental to allow students to concentrate on their studies at a college campus. In recent years, a rash of shootings and lock downs on college campuses has raised issues and planning about how schools respond to emergencies – and Norwich is no exception.

According to the Norwich University’s (NU) facility operations chief, the university utilizes various communication systems and a response team for emergencies.

“We have two emergency notifications. One is a very loud public announcement system; it has a siren and it tells you to shelter in place. Another one is called the RAVE (RAVE Mobile Security System), which is a web-based system in which we can send out a message to our community within minutes,” said David Magida, head of Norwich University’s facility operations. Magida is in charge of security, maintenance, construction, and renovation.

“When there is an emergency, we can push a button and whatever we put in the system will be able to reach the community very quickly by emails, text messages, phone calls, and voicemails.”

The RAVE system was put into effect at Norwich about four years ago. “We had a different notification system before but RAVE was much better,” Magida said.

According to Magida, Norwich has never used the RAVE system for an actual emergency. “We used it for a delayed opening for school. Although it’s not an emergency, there is a sense of urgency that the community needs to know in advance.”

Since RAVE is for emergency use, authorities are careful not to overuse it so the notification system does not lose its value. According to Magida, NU will not send out anything that is unimportant. “Routine information will never be on RAVE because we want the students, faculties, and families to react and know that they have to react quickly.”

Norwich also has an Incident Command Team (ICT) which has representatives from all major operations at Norwich, such as the food services, the commandants, student life, etc. The ICT conducts regular drills to educate and prepare for emergency situations.

“It can be a tropical storm or a major ice storm. Those are usually expected. However, some unexpected emergencies include chemical, hazardous materials, an on-campus shooter, etc.,” Magida said.

Although the ICT does drills for specific events, it focuses on how to properly deal with emergencies. Magida said the ICT works with local law enforcement, private companies, and other organizations. “When the H1N1 virus was around, we worked with the Vermont State Department of Health and educated our community (via ICT).”

Above anything else, Magida believes that the most important part in responding to emergency situations is for the students and faculties to take the alert seriously. “We try to keep the campus as educated as possible, but we might not be able to get the information out as fast as we would like. So if you get a notification or hear the siren, shelter in place and wait for the trained professionals to handle the emergency,” he said.

Magida wanted students and faculty to be absolutely sure that the authorities want everybody to shelter in place when there is an emergency and not take things into their own hands. “Don’t try to be a hero. When you hear the siren or receive a RAVE notification that says ‘shelter in place’ make sure that you shelter in place. Do not try to solve it on your own; we have professionals who are trained.”

However, at least one Norwich student is concerned with NU’s security measures. “I don’t regularly get worried but it’s a concern because you hear about it. I don’t want (what happened at) Sandy Hook to happen to Norwich. (It shouldn’t take) another Virginia Tech (type of school shooting) for our school to have a closer look at our security measures,” said James Kelley, 21, a junior criminal justice major from Northfield, Vt.

Kelley’s father is a professor at Norwich and was a Brigadier General in the Vermont State Militia, so his inside knowledge of Vermont’s security arrangements and resources is above average. “I know that Northfield has one or two officers, and the only SWAT team in Vermont is located 30 minutes away from school,” he said, adding that he does not believe that NU is currently capable of handling large-scale disasters.

Norwich’s lack of available armed officers is a deficiency he feels could make or break a situation. “There was a less-famous shooting in Northern Illinois on a campus. However, their security guards were armed and were able to subdue the shooter in less than 15 minutes,” Kelley said.

He worries Norwich security is not up to the task.

“President Schneider (of NU) said that our security will continue to be unarmed and they are good at what they are entailed to do. However, having sworn officers on campus will cut time when there is an emergency,” he said.

“I know that we have a RAVE system, but (I wasn’t aware that) it was never tested when I was here. I brought it up at the recent open house and (was informed that) NU had just done a RAVE test,” Kelley said, noting he wasn’t aware it had been tested.

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