When a video threatening Hampton University appeared on YouTube in February, campus officials called in the FBI and stepped up security on campus for a week.

In the post-Virginia Tech shooting era, colleges don’t have the leisure of blowing off threats as a joke, says HU Police Chief David Glover.

Glover said he coordinated with local, state and federal officials to head off a potential attack and be prepared if one hit.

Since the April 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech five years ago, campuses across the nation have bolstered the way they prepare for and react to emergencies, both hypothetical and real.

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Glover said the video threatening HU contained a rant about the university followed by the message “You will witness the power of anonymous on March 15.”

The video was initially posted without a threat, Glover said, but escalated after HU students made a counter-video deriding the person’s complaints.

“Even though a person may be joking when they post something like that, we don’t get the latitude of taking it for granted,” Glover said. “If its fluff, huff and puff, great. If not, you will not survive the scrutiny afterward.”

Virginia Tech was sanctioned after the 2007 shooting for not responding quickly enough to ensure the safety of those on campus. It recently won an appeal of the federal fine, which was levied by officials who said the university violated the Clery Act, which requires timely warnings of campus crimes.

Many colleges, including the College of William and Mary and Christopher Newport University, now have sirens that blare in the case of an active shooter or a natural disaster such as a tornado.

W&M was looking into installing a siren in early 2007 and sped up the process after the Virginia Tech shooting, said spokesman Brian Whitson.

The tragedy highlighted the need to have a process for reaching the campus community more quickly, he said. Most colleges — including Virgina Tech — relied on email before April 2007 as the fastest way to notify people of an emergency.

Nearly all campuses now have mass notification systems that will send out text alerts, phone calls and emails to users. Colleges also partner with local agencies to assist the campus police force when needed.

CNU most recently used its alert system when a suspected mobile meth lab was discovered in Wilson Hall March 30. The residence hall was evacuated, and the city police and fire departments were called to the scene because the drug materials can explode.

It eventually ended in an all-clear message as the scene was cleared without incident.

CNU does not use social media to post alerts, but other colleges have added it to their emergency toolbox.

W&M links its mass notification system to its official Facebook and Twitter accounts, Whitson said, and is prepared to use its Facebook page as its backup if the college’s website crashes from heavy traffic in an emergency.

The Williamsburg campus works on its emergency protocols “every day,” says Anna Martin, vice president for administration and chair of the college’s Emergency Management Team.

The team has set up mock operations centers at football games to simulate dealing with a crisis at a large, crowded venue, she said, and does joint tabletop exercises with city officials to practice handling fires or bomb threats.

Extensive emergency planning helps officials sharpen their focus in case of a real emergency, Martin said. Read Full : Daily Press


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