UHDPS assesses emergency system in wake of UT shooting

The open accessibility of UH and many college campuses leaves these institutions susceptible to situations like the recent shooting incident at the University of Texas at Austin. The UH Department of Public Safety said it is prepared and has a plan if such a thing were to ever happen here.

Assistant Chief of Police Brad Wigtil stressed that the most important part of handling those sorts of situations is to respond immediately.

“We set up an incident command system as part of the overall National Incident Management System structure, so that we organize, develop our plan and then execute that plan on how we’re going to handle that,” Wigtil said. “If you don’t organize, it’s just a mess. It can become chaotic.”

One of the major pitfalls in the pre-Columbine High School shooting approach to these situations was that first responders would only set up a perimeter and then wait for the SWAT team to arrive. The UHDPS employs a strategy in which all of its patrol officers are trained to handle the situation immediately. This allows the first responders to get to the point of the incident and develop ever-expanding circles, called inner- and outer-perimeters, to help keep people away from danger.

“We want to lock down the community if we have an active shooter just as UT did, and the way that you do that is to notify your community,” Wigtil said.

UH has a siren system to alert the students on campus, but the peer system is considered most effective. The peer system consists of emails, text messages and text to voicemail messages. To receive these updates, students must register their cell phone numbers with their PeopleSoft account.

“I really encourage people to register for that program,” Wigtil said. “If you have a 1 p.m. class and it’s 11 a.m., we will send a text (reading), ‘Hey don’t come to the campus.’ We will set up mobility issues, roadblocks, to keep people away from the dangerous area.”

The UHDPS encourages students to be more proactive in reporting suspicious activity or persons so that they might feel safer.

“If you don’t make the call,” Wigtil said, “we don’t know about it.”

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