By GEOFF MEHL, Staff Reporter
The University of Michigan-Dearborn received a scare last Monday when the university alert system issued an active shooter alert incident at Fairlane Mall.
A Detroit man was charged with armed robbery, felony firearm and carrying a concealed weapon after he stole designer sunglasses from a mall goer and fired shots inside the mall. No one was hurt in the shooting.
UM-Dearborn police chief Kevin Williams talked about how the incident affected the university community.
“It affected it significantly because we received notice of a shooting in the mall and it is in the same parking lot as The Union, where the students live and where our faculty work,” he said. “There was no indication of them being in custody and because we didn’t know where they were it caused us to be concerned.”
Though the incident did not end in a direct security risk for the university, it raised some questions about the policies and security measures that are in place.
Williams laid out some of these changes in policy and precautions for student safety.
“We have increased our visibility on campus due to the recent campus incidents,” Williams said. “We want to be visible to the students and be accessible for students if they need it.”
Along with the increased visibility of officers on campus, UM-Dearborn’s police department has been training for situations that could be a threat to students and faculty.
“Active shooter training is something all of our staff is going through, so security and faculty knows what to do if there was an active shooter,” Williams said.“We are having all of our staff being trained in emergency managing. We teamed with the Dearborn City Police Department and have discussed exercises to prevent these tragedies.”
Training for an active shooter isn’t the only thing UM-Dearborn has done to best serve the safety of students and staff.
It has begun to upgrade its ability to communicate fluidly between the university and first responders, including police, EMS or other emergency responders. Williams calls this “interoperability.”
“We are changing our radio practices. We will be able to talk to first responders in case of an emergency. Interoperability allows us to talk to anyone who shows up,” Williams said.“We are also using an incident command system that came out of 9/11. There is a structure that is adopted so there is an incident commander if anything happens so people know their roles.”
UM-Dearborn is also taking measures by adding security features to its buildings.
The university has several buildings where a secured electronic lock system allows rooms to be locked and only entered with a swipe card.
They have also replaced the lights on the Blue Light Emergency phones placed around the campus to make them more visible in case of emergency.
Chief Williams also urges students to stay informed with the emergency alert system. There are several ways students can access the information when an incident occurs.
“I would encourage students to sign up for emergency alerts. They can receive them by text and email. Soon we will be able to put an emergency screen on the campus computers to alert students.”
He gave suggestions as well for some precautions students can take to maintain their own safety in an emergency situation.
“There are several things that I ask students to do. If you see something, say something. There are thousands of students, faculty and staff and they are a great asset to the community with all their eyes and ears,” he said. “We also encourage for people to walk in pairs in well-lit pathways and be aware of their surroundings.”
Students can also find information on the university website. It lays out what to do about everything from an active shooter to a campus fire. It offers instructions and tips for safety in case of an emergency.
You can find more about the emergency management systems at http://umdearborn.edu/em_beprepared/.