In the wake of last week's lock-down at the University of Rhode Island, Patch contacted Brian E. Clark, Director of Public Affairs at Roger Williams University, to ask about how RWU handles its safety and security procedures.
As it happened, the university had a scheduled safety review on Friday, one day after the URI incident which appears to have started with an off-hand remark by a student and led to the cancellation of classes.
"We are conducting customized Building Safety Training sessions for our campus buildings (this is what is scheduled [Friday] afternoon, for one particular building) in order to train employees on how to respond to lockdown events such as an active shooter and how to exit buildings most quickly," Clark wrote in an email message. "These are customized for specific buildings and designed to equip people within those buildings with information on how to react in crisis situations."
Since the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, campuses have taken steps to respond to so-called "active shooter" incidents, though Clark noted "these situations arise infrequently," adding: "While we have a comprehensive response plan in place at Roger Williams for such an event, we are more likely to encounter other types of crisis situations – in recent years, there have been no campus intruder events, yet we have responded to incidents related to a reported gas leak, a fireworks malfunction, a delivery truck fire and a chemical spill."
Clark explained that in these cases, the University's Public Safety department assesses the relative threat and issues alerts, including activating the Bristol campus sirens, as needed.
In at least one prior instance, an alert did not go out based on officials' evaluation of an incident.
A student at the ELS Center reportedly threatened to "blow the walls out" in May, 2011, leading to his arrest by the Bristol Police Department on a charge of making a bomb threat.
At the time, Director of Public Safety John Blessing explained in a statement that campus officials did not issue an alert because they determined that the alleged threat by Abdulrahman Khalid Althuwayb did not pose an immediate risk to students or staff.
[Providence Superior Court Justice Netti C. Vogel dismissed the felony bomb threat charge against Althiwayb on Nov. 30, 2011. Althiwayb pleaded no contest to a charge of disorderly conduct, and paid court costs.]
"The goal is to assess the threat level and if needed, communicate both with local law enforcement and with the campus community as immediately as possible, but in a way that is based on the facts at hand," Clark explained.
By May 1, the university is expected to complete the switch to a new system that sends text messages and other alerts to "every member of the univesity community [who] is automatically opted in to the system."
Some campuses require students and staffers to sign up for alerts, Clark noted.
"As long as users keep their contact information up to date, they will be equipped to receive messages in the event of a crisis," added Clark.