Department of the Year Award
2018 National Winner
The Department of the Year Award recognizes outstanding accomplishment in student and campus safety by a U.S. college or university administrative department.
Murray State University
Murray State Police Department
and Center for Adult and Regional Education
On June 28, 2017 at 4:53 p.m., Murray State University experienced a critical incident in which one of our residential halls, JH Richmond Hall, had an explosion. Amazingly, the University did not have any loss of life due to this catastrophic event. We had multiple groups on campus who were not directly affiliated with the University. From the moment of impact, the University’s crisis management team acted under the protocols developed. Within the first 12 minutes after the emergency, the University Police and surrounding public safety agencies converged to establish control and communications, identify the danger zone, establish inner and outer perimeters, establish an on-scene command post, establish a staging area, staff an emergency operations center, and identify and request additional resources. In the two hours after the incident began, the university assembled a communications response team; held media briefings; established call lines to receive parent calls; sent emails to the campus, alumni, prospective students, and the parents of camp attendees; and launched a parent/student FAQ site.
After the initial crisis, the University underwent an After Action Review of the incident to determine which areas were handled well and which could use improvement. One item that the final After Action Report recommended was that we needed to have a better process for communication for multiple Murray State sponsored and external camps on campus during that time. We had a solid process of communication for faculty, staff and students with email, website emergency updates, media reports and social media details; however, camp participants and their parents did not have access to those components in as timely a manner as they needed.
To understand better the challenges and the opportunities the University had before us, an adhoc Presidential committee representing each vice presidential area, Enrollment Management and Athletics was formed in July 2017 with the charge to develop better emergency processes for camps and to revisit building reservation mechanisms. Initially, the team discussed scheduling software to assist with information, but with budgetary restrictions, the cost was prohibitive. We reassessed the purpose – the goal is to make sure anyone on our campus is safe with proper notification plans in place, and we refocused our efforts on camp procedures. After multiple discussions, the University developed a protocol for Required Safety Procedures for Seasonal Camps and Contracted Programs, http://www.murraystate.edu/campdirectors.
Chief Jamie Herring of Murray State Police Department and Janeen Winters, Murray State University Coordinator for Community Outreach, were instrumental in developing clear and comprehensive information for camp directors to complete. This became more than just a process for providing a safe location and evolved into protocols that all must follow when working with students, especially minors. The website involves camp resources, a checklist, Title IX and Campus Security Authority trainings, development of a crisis communication plan for each camp with specific communication contacts, insurance compliance, and background checks.
The camp director must sign that all the staff have completed the trainings and all documents are in that person’s possession. With the use of Google Forms, the information can then be shared with Police and others easily. If there is an incident, an immediate communication through text and email can be sent to the camp directors as well as all University employees. The camp directors, through their emergency plan, can then contact parents and guardians to inform them of the situation, location of their children, and next steps. The initial response has been extremely positive, with one unit associated with an external camp noting that they revisited their safety protocols for their entire organization. Murray State sponsored camps have also revisited their data collection processes. The process has been altered to obtain emergency contact information and consent forms for campers during registration, rather than upon arrival for the camp.
The project has involved multiple facets of the University to create what, on first glance, seems merely to be a website. Housing, Dining, building coordinators, Athletics, Police, Academic Affairs, Student Affairs, Facilities, Communications, Finance and Administrative Services, Community Outreach, Legal Counsel, Title IX, President’s Office, and camp personnel have made this happen. The University and local communities came together to assist physically and emotionally during this terrible event, recognized the need for better constructs to ensure the well-being of our community, and made the changes with good old-fashioned hard work without a tremendous outlay of finances. We are proud to be Racers!
The 2018 Department of the Year Award will be presented to Murray State University and the two finalist universities at the National Campus Safety Summit Award Luncheon on February 26, 2019 (Day 1 of the conference).
All conference attendees are welcome at the (free) gourmet buffet luncheon. Join us in honoring this year’s recipients.
View the full 2018 Top 25 List.