Universities Exchange Security Ideas

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Leaders from Big 10 schools came together in Lansing Monday to discuss security on campus and swap stories of both past successes and failures.

"We want to be sure we share as much as we can about the things that went really well but also about the things that didn't go so well so we can all learn from them," said Debbi Fletcher, the director of emergency management at the University of Indiana-Bloomington. "If we don't do that then we're going to repeat the same issues over and over again. That's why the group exists."

Fletcher gave a presentation about an incident that happened on the University of Indiana-Purdue University Indianapolis campus last March. A woman called to report that she had seen a man carrying a rifle and a manhunt ensued. Four-and-a-half hours later, the search was called off with nothing to show for it.

Fletcher presented the day in meticulous detail, pointing out where the office had acted correctly and where and why it had gone wrong.

"We're all feeling some of the same issues, we've got problems with developing the communication, working through some of those processes," she said. "Our university can help them fill those gaps. It helps everybody."

Colleagues took notes, nodded and were encouraged to start discussions during lunch -- collaborating to take steps toward a safer campus.

"We use in essence things that have gone right or wrong in other places," said MSU Police Capt. Penny Fischer. "That provides the foundation for what we start to plan for."

Fischer said other universities have already played a part in influencing MSU. After flooding in Iowa, she said, MSU revisited its flood plan. After hearing of troubles securing doors on older buildings in Bloomington, Ind., Fischer said MSU might examine its own buildings.

"Because each of us have similar issues, we can share ideas of what one or other of us has discovered to be a good fix for a problem we may have," said Fischer.

After an afternoon session, the MSU police showed off some of its newest technology -- a mobile command post and a portable speaker tower to spread warnings during natural disasters.

Fischer says MSU is well prepared for weather-inflicted emergencies.

"In Michigan, we're used to the weather," she said. "We're all prepared for those tornadoes or straight-line winds or blizzard conditions.

The newest point of emphasis is deterring cyber attacks, she said.

"When you start thinking about cyber technology failure or breaches, it's a little more difficult to comprehend and a little more difficult to plan for," she said. "So we really need to bring that discussion forward."

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