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Higher ed Emergency Management Planning Higher Ed Emergency Management Planning

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Campus Public Safety

The characteristics of security and police services on the nation's college and university campuses vary considerably. However, the following four primary types of campus public safety services are most common:

  1. Campus police department: An integral part of the IHE that provides law enforcement and other services (e.g., traffic control, building security) to the IHE. All the members of the department are employed by the IHE, and the sworn law enforcement officers of the department also have authority to enforce federal, state, local, and tribal laws, as authorized.
  2. Security department or operation: An agency whose members are employed by the IHE, but whose members are not sworn officers. Because the members do not have sworn authority, the IHE relies on federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement for support in criminal matters.
  3. Contract security personnel: A private firm contracted to provide security services to the IHE. The IHE relies on federal, state, local, and tribal law enforcement for support in criminal matters.
  4. Local, state, or tribal police: A local, state, or tribal police agency that provides law enforcement services to the IHE by contract or agreement.

On some campuses, police and security operations may be provided by a combination of the above services, with some services contracted to private vendors while others are maintained as the responsibility of the campus public safety agency (which can include a fire department or emergency medical services unit).

Regardless of the type of public safety model utilized by the IHE, the planning team must take into consideration the authority granted to federal, state, local, and tribal first responders to act on campus as permitted by law for each agency (e.g., law enforcement agency, fire department, and public health office).

The type of police or security operation may vary within the same system or campus. Among major state university systems the police or security operations may differ from campus to campus. Individual campuses may have separate police or security departments for different components of the campus, such as the hospital, graduate school, or athletic facility. These different departments may have their own uniforms, insignia, training operations, and policies.

The type of security operation also may vary between on- and off-campus facilities. Many IHEs are decentralized, with remote centers and facilities located away from the main campus. Off-campus sites may house important research and data records. Off-campus residences may house thousands of students. Some campus public safety agencies are responsible for patrolling areas that surround campuses pursuant to legislation or through formal agreement with the federal, state, local, or tribal law enforcement authority. At some IHEs, students are not required to live on campus, and off-campus housing sites may not fall within the IHEs policing or security jurisdiction. This may create legal, jurisdictional, and operational conflicts in preventing and responding to crimes and managing emergencies.

Regardless of these variations, campus public safety officials should be intricately involved in the creation of the higher ed EOP, as they have critical responsibilities before, during, and after an emergency. To effectively develop and implement a high-quality EOP, the planning team should work with the campus public safety agency to

  • Inform federal, state, local, and tribal agencies about the characteristics, strengths, vulnerabilities, and needs of the campus;
  • Develop mutual-aid agreements and memoranda of understanding with other public safety partners (e.g., those adjoining the IHE’s public safety entities, nearby fire departments);
  • Participate in federal, state, local, and tribal activities, including exercises, that address the range of campus public safety needs;
  • Meet with other IHEs to foster information sharing, common prevention and response strategies, and consistency in working with federal, state, local, and tribal public safety partners;
  • Improve interagency coordination, create coalitions, and develop partnerships with federal, state, local, and tribal emergency management agencies; and
  • Adopt common incident response strategies, policies, and procedures for use across multiple campuses and sites, as recommended by the National Incident Management System (NIMS).
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