Monday, December 6, 2010

Thoughts on the December 3 Lockdown.

Event shows campus systems work.

If you have any connection with Ferrum College it would have been hard to miss the news last Friday (Dec. 3, 2010) that the school was on lockdown during the overnight hours after a student called 911 to say she heard a loud noise that could have been a gunshot.

Ultimately, there was no evidence of any kind of threat, and despite the best efforts of police and even the maintenance staff, (which combed Basset Hall looking for anything that could have made a loud noise) we still do not know the source of the sound.

Be that as it may, Ferrum College should be proud of the way this event was handled. Campus police, along with Franklin County and State Police were on the scene 1 minute after Franklin County Dispatch received the 911 call.

Here’s why:

Police Chief Libby Legg, a former Lt. in the Roanoke City Police department has fostered relationships with the county and the state. The Ferrum Police headquarters serves as Franklin County’s western outpost for the Sheriff’s Department and a sub-station for State Police. That doesn’t mean we always have Troopers and Deputies on the premises – but they are here more than in years past, and they were here the night of December 3. Kudos to Chief Legg for creating an atmosphere where law enforcement officers feel comfortable and welcome.

Another success was the campus notification system. With the press of a single button, the Ferrum community was notified via the campus website, text messaging, Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail that a lockdown was in place, but that there were no injuries. The campus siren sounded with the pressing of another button to coincide with the other messaging. The lockdown was lifted via the same mechanism – minus the siren.

To Lockdown or Not Lockdown?

This one wasn’t as easy, and the decision was not made lightly. Campus leaders convened in the President’s Conference Room in John Wesley Hall to discuss the options. Had only a single student heard the noise, there may have been no lockdown. But when police arrived, several other students said they had also heard a sound. With no explanation for the sound forthcoming, the group felt that if we were going to err, it would be on the side of the safety of Ferrum students.

The lockdown allowed campus police to do an orderly search of campus and each residence hall and to confirm there was no need for alarm. That way, when the all clear was signaled around 5:30 a.m. – we were confident there truly was no threat.

To View the story that aired on WDBJ-7 Click here.

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