Pierce College is tightening up security measures and improving safety policies partly in response to the increased frequency of situations that have compromised safety in schools across the country.
Rolf Schleicher, vice president of Administrative Services, has been spearheading the effort since he took over the job in September 2012.
“There’s a lot more focus on security,” he said.
In addition to ensuring that buildings that are currently under construction or renovation are built with the necessary facets to improve security, the school is also aiming to teach students what they need to know when faced with emergency situations.
STUDENT AND FACULTY TRAINING
Hour-long presentations scheduled for Nov. 18 at noon for students and Nov. 19 at 11:30 a.m. for staff will cover discussions on campus emergency protocols, according to Larry Kraus, associate vice president of Student Services.
Though this will be the first time students will be given the opportunity to participate actively on the topic, the presentations will be a continuation of ongoing discussion for staff.
“There’s actually continual programs to increase the general knowledge and awareness of our safety issues and appropriate responses,” Kraus said.
The presentations fall in line with past active shooter, Community Emergency Response Team and sensitivity training sessions that have previously been hosted on campus.
Additional sessions could be added to the ones already scheduled, depending on the needs of the Pierce community.
In addition to general knowledge of safety protocol, the staff session will teach faculty how to handle situations in the classroom.
“If we go in the emergency response direction we think is most feasible, that means each faculty member–when the crisis happens–becomes an administrator in the classroom, and we want to make sure they’re comfortable with that because it’s not contract driven; it’s driven by, basically, responsibility,” Schleicher said. “Some professors might feel comfortable giving students direction; others may not. Regardless, students see that faculty members being the leader in the classroom. We’re trying to create a stronger dialogue. The training can only be as good as they’re comfortable delivering. We can kind of dictate it out based on what we know of risk management but we thought it would be better to develop a more holistic approach and get their input.”
Students will also be taught how to respond in emergency situations.
“Students are actually the biggest part of our emergency response, because students partaking and safeguarding themselves is the best thing,” Schleicher said. “We learned from L.A.X. When the assault came, people were doing all kinds of stuff to put them in harm’s way. We’re trying to learn from these incidents, like when you have a mass scale, how are they going to react if someone comes in with a semi-automatic? [They’re going] to run away, but we want to make sure they don’t run in the street and get hit by a car or do something else that’s odd.”
In addition to improving on security measures already in place, Schleicher is also looking at construction projects so that physical safety measures can be planned as the school moves forward with each building.
The construction team will soon be laying big pipes in the ground so the school is making sure safety measures like using an aluminum trench box to avoid cave-ins. There’s also a worry that students may get too close to the trenches and fall in so a perimeter will be put around the construction area. When it comes to safety construction companies often hold toolbox talks to not only maintain the safety of their workers – using tool box topics software – but also members of the public.
In another instance, Schleicher said that he and Kraus had walked the perimeter of the construction area north of the Mall to figure out what was needed before meeting with district officials to report their findings.
The school is also trying to figure out access controls like locks on the doors, district-wide identification cards and intrusion alerts. They’ll also likely need storage solutions to keep both dangerous materials under lock and key and those around them protected – solutions from storemasta are often used by those in construction.
“I’m pushing those initiatives to be done at our construction program,” Schleicher said. “Those take time, because I walked into a construction program that was part of the Facilities Master Plan but didn’t have a high emphasis on security because in the past, security wasn’t as much of an issue as it has been in the last few years.”
Even though it will take a while for these to be put to effect, Schleicher says his determination with improving the new buildings’ safety measures is, in turn, helping speed things along with completing construction.
“These concerns are as important as getting new instructional areas,” he said. “If we get construction moving forward, then we can solve some of our security issues.”
Because safety and construction are interrelated, Schleicher has to depend on the bond money that is set aside for the buildings.
“It’s a huge challenge for us. We know what to do, but executing it is a funding issue,” he said.
The school can’t afford to under fund the project as this could lead to accidents. If you have been part of an under-funded construction project and have been injured because of it then you may want to visit a site like https://www.joyelawfirm.com/accidents/construction-accident-lawyer/ to see if you can get compensation..
Three tiers of response teams, each comprised of a handful of campus professionals, form the overarching protocol that kicks in with the presence of emergency situations.
The first of these groups, the behavioral intervention team (B.I.T.), is made up mostly of Student Services personnel, and is in place to help prevent situations through keeping track of students’ behavior.
“It’s not punitive,” Kraus said. “We’re not talking about emergency. We’re talking about assistance.”
B.I.T. will help differentiate a person who could pose a threat to the security of the Pierce community from someone who is “just misunderstood,” Schleicher said. The team’s main focus is on student privacy.
According to Kraus, B.I.T. referral forms, through which anyone can submit information of concern about somebody else, will be made available soon through the Pierce website.
A threat assessment team, on the other hand, is tasked with responding to escalated threats and assaults that need immediate diffusion. This team, made up mostly of administrators, has to ensure the safety of the campus by examining emergency situations as they come.
The last part of the trio that make up the response teams on campus is Campus Violence Response Team, which deals primarily with sexual assault incidents, as well as preventative and post-trauma intervention.
While the response teams are already in place, they are being refined with each incident, according to Schleicher.
“It’s kind of a moving target,” he said. “What we’re sharing in our meetings is incidents that happen at other campuses that are very planned events that could be very scary for us. We’re trying to do a ‘lessons learned.'”
In addition to the response teams, Schleicher says that the school uses outside resources like Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department psychologists.
“It’s multi-directional, multi-focused. What we’re tying to do is better understand the whole network and to plan for any kind of emergencies that might happen,” Schleicher said. “Planning is, for us, very important.”
Beth Benne, who is a member of both B.I.T. and the threat assessment team, has been with the campus for 20 years. She says that in all those years, she hasn’t seen the campus’ security as well thought-out as it is right now.
“I’m so tickled we’re finally doing it,” she said.
According to Schleicher, the Los Angeles Community College District is also trying to streamline the emergency notification system for all nine campuses under its umbrella.
“To have a more robust system of reporting through either text messages, emails or voice messages would be a benefit to students and the community at Pierce,” he said.
Since Schleicher came on board, he says the school has restored its cadet program and even hired more cadets.
“I spoke to the president and sheriffs about some glaring problems on campus and based on the dialogue, I knew we needed more support,” he said. “We’ve ramped up our security dramatically, I’d say, but we still want more.”