Do you feel safe on campus? The answer to that question is the job of a whole team of people working around the clock, from law enforcement experts to dispatchers to Bear Line drivers.
All of these positions fall under the umbrella of the Office of University Safety, previously known as the Department of Safety and Transportation. This division is responsible for managing all transportation, emergency preparedness, law enforcement and general campus safety.
“We want to be viewed as the campus safety experts,” said David Hall, director of University Safety. “Students should feel comfortable coming to us with any safety needs they may have.”
There have been changes recently to the structure of the Office of University Safety. According to the 2019 University Safety Spring Update, “the emphasis is moving from non-sworn, security enforcement to an extreme focus on crime prevention, increasing safety training, campus risk-reduction and providing professional level services.”
For example, public safety officers are now known as campus safety specialists and will wear polos instead of uniforms. This is meant to communicate that they are not law enforcement, but a resource to help students when they need it.
They perform duties that don’t require professional police training, such as safewalks, car jumps and room unlocks.
“We try to leave law enforcement to the professionals,” Hall said.
Another new priority is upgrading the camera systems and lighting in areas of campus where students don't always feel safe, especially parking lots.
According to the 2019 spring update, Student Government Association recently approved a measure to fund additional security cameras in Bear Park South, Lot 31 and Lot 33.
Hall also looks to improve the campus dispatch system.
“By having two dispatchers, instead of just one, a dispatcher can stay on the line with the person who needs immediate assistance while the other dispatcher uses the camera system to help law enforcement locate the person,” Hall said.
Emergency preparedness is another important aspect of campus safety. This section of University Safety includes safety trainings, such as the ones held earlier this year for active shooter situations, and also safety equipment like fire extinguishers and automated external defibrillators.
“We have 1,996 fire extinguishers on campus that need to be inspected once per month,” Hall said. “That’s a big job.”
More AEDs were added this last semester too. There is an app available for people trained in their use created by the Springfield Fire Department, University Safety, Mercy Hospital and Cox Health. According to University Safety’s Spring Report, PulsePoint is an app that will notify users when someone is in cardiac arrest, and provides the location of the nearest AED.
“In the case of an emergency, the equipment needs to be there and it needs to be working,” Hall said.
While this division may be large, the awareness of it is not.
“Getting accurate information to students about what we do and how to access our resources is something we struggle with,” Hall said.
The Office of University Safety already has a blog, called Safety First, but they will be getting a new website soon.
“Ultimately we want to be that kind of neighborhood person that you can come to if you need help,” Hall said.