Spotlight on campus security

Lawton_On the anniversary of the tragic shooting deaths at Virginia Tech, security of college campuses is in the spotlight. Cameron University in Lawton has tightened up on security - but, it did so well before the Virginia Tech shootings. Cameron has assistance call boxes all over campus. If someone is in distress, they can contact campus security directly through the phone line.

However, help doesn't only apply to physical danger. If a student needs any kind of assistance - if they are locked out of their car, or simply need a jump start - these call boxes are making campuses safer. Cameron University is safer than most college campuses in the country, and Cameron School Safety Director John DeBoard says the University is ahead of the national curve. It has closed circuit TV cameras all over campus, and can monitor areas where large groups of students gather. "Should something appear to be happening, we can dispatch officers to a particular location.

DeBoard attended the National Campus Security Summit last weekend at the University of Central Oklahoma where they discussed potentially deadly scenarios like what happened at Virginia Tech. The group discussed how they could prevent a tragedy like that from ever happening. "These incidents are being committed by people who have mental disorders," he says. "So universities across the nation are going to have to develop an assessment situation."

DeBoard says he expects Cameron will have a counseling system for such situations. "Something designated for that [mental health evaluation]. We are in the process of developing a student assessment situation through the office of student services." He says students already feel safer since there are always police on duty on campus, in addition to the call boxes. "We always have our emergency call boxes all across campus," says DeBoard. "So, if there's ever any problem, all we have to do is call the phone number for dispatch here, or use one of the call boxes, to get a hold of an officer."

Cameron is also using an alert message service called "Connect-Ed," which sends recorded and text messages to phones and email addresses in the event of an emergency. "You register with Cameron University - your e-mail address, your primary phone, your secondary phone - however you want to receive notification," says DeBoard.

However, the alerts are not only for criminal activity. Officials also use the system for severe weather. "Say were in a tornado warning, impending high winds, things of that nature that may be approaching the campus. Then, you would be notified," says DeBoard. "So you wouldn't be caught unaware."

Cameron hasn't ever had a situation where it has needed to send out alert messages through the Connect-Ed system, but officials test it regularly. They send test messages, and ask students for feedback. The system can store up to six phone numbers and e-mail addresses per student - including contact numbers for parents. Connect-Ed is used at schools across Oklahoma and Texas - including OU, Rogers State, Baylor, and North Texas. OU uses a similar system.