Safety committee discusses emergency plan, off-campus misconduct initiative

Kristen Russo

John Peach, Kent State police chief, said although the campus emergency plan is complex and optimistic, it should be in place and fully functional by the end of 2008.

Members of the Public Safety Advisory Committee met yesterday to discuss issues including the Campus Emergency Preparedness Action Plan and the Kent State and Kent City Police Department off-campus misconduct initiative.

The emergency plan will alert students to emergencies that happen on campus and tell them how to respond. Peach, who is also public safety director, said the plan will be implemented in four phases with the first two phases set to be complete by July 1, the third by the end of August and the fourth by the end of that year.

“It is optimistic, but I’d rather have an optimistic plan than one that lingers too much,” Peach said. “It kind of puts our foot to the fire, so to speak.”

The first phase includes updating the fire alarm systems in buildings that already have public address systems. The goal is to integrate an alert system through the existing systems in Kent Hall, Franklin Hall, the University Library, the Gym Annex, the Student Center, the Liquid Crystal Institute and all residence halls with the exception of Tri-Towers and Engleman Hall.

Peach said Tri-Towers and Engleman Hall won’t be included in this phase because their systems are different from those in other residence halls. While he ensured the safety of Tri-Towers, Peach said the complex will also undergo a renovation of its fire-suppression system next year.

In the second phase, the university will purchase 130 alert systems for buildings that do not have public address systems. Peach said one system will be installed on each floor of these buildings with the exception of buildings such as the Music and Speech Center, which will require more than one system per floor because of its design.

The third phase is the Tri-Towers renovation, and phase four will be installing outdoor speakers throughout campus, Peach said.

Peach made multiple references to last year’s shooting at Virginia Tech while he discussed the emergency plan.

“Kent State University has historically been a safe campus,” Peach said. “But Virginia Tech was also a safe campus, too.”

In an effort to get emergency messages out in as many ways as possible, the university has also implemented text-message, Web site and e-mail alert systems to keep people informed about what’s happening on campus.

“We have to notify the campus community that there is an emergency and they have to know what’s expected of them,” Peach said.

Kent also has an AM station, 1520 WJMP, where people can get information about emergencies on campus.

Dan Fitzpatrick, deputy chief of the Kent State Police Department and associate director of public safety, also attended the meeting and discussed the status of the Kent State and Kent Police Department off-campus misconduct initiative, which he described as “successful so far.”

Under the initiative, the university and the city work together to tackle the problem of off-campus violations such as the noise ordinance.

Fitzpatrick said he thought if students were brought before judicial affairs that would affect them more than paying fines for their offenses because it could put a strain on their relationship with the university. Raising fines for violations wasn’t stopping the problem.

Peach said the city and the university have seen fewer incidents than in years past since the program was implemented.

Fitzpatrick agreed.

“It was apparent that the word was getting out to students and they weren’t happy that they were going to have to face judicial affairs,” he said.

Peach said that while this program has been successful, he thinks it’s unlikely the university and the city would agree to defer criminal charges and send students straight to judicial affairs because they don’t want to give the impression that Kent State students are treated differently when they commit crimes.

Among other topics discussed at the meeting:

-The partnership between the Kent State, Kent and Brimfield police departments in which they share mutual aid and a computer-aided dispatch system.

-The possibility of a new route for the Campus Loop bus and more parking around residence halls.

-The improvement of Summit Street from Lincoln Street to state Route 261 and transportation issues around the Student Center.

-Parking Services’ plan to start booting cars instead of towing them.

-A possible increase in the cost of parking permits to offset the cost of maintenance and the loss of revenue from parking tickets due to the increased number of parking spaces on campus.

Contact public affairs reporter Kristen Russo at [email protected].