Joey De Anda
A new safety system is nearing the end of installation on Cuesta campuses and will help in emergency scenarios at the college. The Oregon campus shooting at Umpqua Community college last week was another reminder that mass violence can take place on any campus.
A congressional study on mass murders and firearms released in July of this year found there were “4.5 [mass shootings] per year from 2010 through 2013.” This includes approximately seven victims murdered and approximately six wounded per incident. These numbers have increased from the decade prior with 4.1 incidents per year in the early 2000’s.
These statistics have dramatically increased from the one recorded incident per year that occurred during the 1970’s.
The Cuesta College administration is doing its part to help protect those who come to campus on a daily basis. A new campus wide safety alert system is slated to come on line December 1, 2015.
An email issued by Cuesta College President Gil Storke stated, “In light of the tragic event that took place at Umpqua Community College, I would like to assure you that Cuesta College acknowledges our role as guardians of our students, fellow employees, and community visitors.”
In the event of a campus wide emergency, the color coded emergency response system serves several purposes.
“They are mainly for classrooms and areas that will pool a high population,” said Sgt. Jason Hopkins, who manages several officers and student workers in the Cuesta Police Department.
According to Sgt. Hopkins, “it is better to be prepared than play catch-up,” Hopkins confirmed, however, that there has never been a campus wide emergency at any Cuesta campuses.
The new signals are manufactured by a company called Visiplex, who develops application-specific wireless solutions, including “Wireless Emergency Notification Systems,” according to their website.
Visiplex has systems located all over the country including several California State Universities, according to Pat Devine, Sales Representative for Visiplex.
The signals consist of a red, amber, white and green colored lights.
The solid red light signals a campus wide lockdown, Hopkins said. A flashing red light will be used in conjunction with a new siren located on top of the 3100-Building to advise of a campus evacuation.
The amber light is a warning that there is a message to come via the email and text alert system called Regroup, according to Hopkins.
A white light will always be on as status quo and a green light will signal an ‘all-clear’ and that normal campus operations may resume.
The alert system and the signals, the idea of the facilities department, will be in over 400 locations throughout Cuesta’s San Luis Obispo and North County campuses upon implementation. According to Devine, each light unit retails for $212.
Devine explained that the lights can be activated from a “central base or remotely either by telephone or software allowing for multiple points of access.”
According to Sgt. Hopkins. “We are attempting to provide as many different avenues as possible for campus community safety.” The facilities department is reportedly awaiting the arrival of approximately 100 more units to add to the hundreds already in place.
While there has always been an emergency response plan in place at Cuesta, the past plans have not been, “as visual as [they are] now,” according to Hopkins. A new campus safety policy will be available once all of the bugs have been worked out of the new system, according to Hopkins.
Students can expect to see the small lights show up all over campus with an accompanying display that outlines their use and how to respond to the different lights should they be illuminated in a real emergency situation.
Several attempts to contact facilities maintenance Supervisor Terre Reece regarding the total cost of the new system and the source of funding have gone unanswered.
Cuesta student Hope Adams, first semester psychology major, said, “I think the system is a very good way to keep us safe. It is clear and won’t cause a bunch of confusion.”
The new alert system is expected to be activated by facilities management and public safety in the event of a real disaster or campus emergency. Cuesta Campus Police urge all students to also join the Regroup messaging alert system for information in a real emergency and also for campus wide notifications that will affect students.
The light notification system joins the already installed “LokBloks” that are on classroom and office doors, which allow for quick securing of buildings.
Storke also mentioned the existence of panic buttons that are located throughout the campus that can record audio.
Storke completed his email of concern by stating, “I also want to reassure [the campus community] that the college is doing everything it can to enhance the safety of its students and employees.”
Students and staff can join Regroup by following the directions at cuesta.regroup.com using their MyCuesta login to register.
Public safety reminds all students and staff to call 3911 when encountering any on campus emergency or Campus Police directly at 805-546-3205.