Stillwater News Press

Local News

January 30, 2014

Communication key to security at Oklahoma State

STILLWATER, Okla. — Communication with students and among law enforcement entities is the key to safety during reports of shootings on university campuses.

The University of Oklahoma’s alert system and Norman-area law enforcement agencies ensured public safety earlier this month when reports surfaced of a shooting on the OU campus. The reports later proved  to be unfounded. Still, OU president David Boren praised students for hunkering down while law enforcement personnel scoured the area searching for victims and a shooter.

Oklahoma State University officials said a safety protocol is in place in the event of a shooting on the Stillwater campus. University Police, Stillwater Police and Payne County Sheriff’s Office spokesmen said their personnel are trained and ready for an emergency.

University officials said they won’t delve into campus security specifics because that knowledge could be used to thwart their plans.

If a shooting incident was reported, university police would use the Cowboy Alert System to send alerts via texts, emails and automated phone calls to students, faculty and employees, according to a OSU Police statement in response to questions from the News Press.

“Oklahoma State has dedicated many resources into keeping its campus safe and to have the ability to communicate with both students and employees in the event of an emergency,” according to the statement issued by OSU communications.

OSU Police, Stillwater Police and the sheriff’s office routinely train to respond to campus emergencies, including shootings. The partnerships include a joint special operations team (SWAT) team.

“The OSU Police Department has procedures in place for various emergency scenarios,” according to the statement.

OSU, Stillwater, Payne County and Cushing Police officers receive Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training, which prepares them to work together in an emergency. The training protocol was adopted after the Columbine, Colo., school shooting in April 1999. It changed the way law enforcement dealt with school shootings.

Stillwater Director of Public Safety Norman McNickle said ALERRT standards require the first officers on scene to immediately enter the area and eliminate the threat. It’s a change from the procedure used at Columbine, which required the first officers on scene to locate and isolate the shooter.

“Any officer arriving on scene can respond with an officer from another jurisdiction with confidence,” McNickle said.

Payne County Sheriff Capt. Kevin Woodward said communication is everything. All on-duty officers respond to a report of an active shooter. Teams work together to rescue trapped students, while others search for the gunman.

“Our goal is to get as many people out as we can,” he said. “It puts our officers in harm’s way, but that’s our job.”

In a critical situation, officers would call for backup, establish a command post and call in the Sheriff’s Office’s Mine-Resitant Ambush Protected vehicle to help control the incident,  Woodward said.

“However, if the situation were contained, we wouldn’t need them,” Sheriff R.B. Hauf added.

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