The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

September 30, 2013

W.Va. HEPC considers campus safety rule

Panel wants to establish policy that addresses response to natural disasters, emergencies

CHARLESTON — West Virginia higher education officials are considering a campus safety rule that establishes policies and procedures addressing four-year institutions’ planning and response to natural disasters, shootings or other emergencies.

The West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission is expected to vote on the rule during a special meeting on Friday. If approved, the rule would be submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office for a 30-day public comment period.

“Recent weather-related emergencies have demonstrated the need for improved communication and coordination between the Commission and individual institutions. In addition, violent acts on college campuses across the nation have underscored the necessity for campuses, no matter their size, to prepare for a range of unthinkable circumstances,” commission staff member Neal Holly wrote in a document accompanying the agenda for Friday’s meeting.

The rule would require all schools to have a campus emergency plan in place, to review the plan annually and to submit a copy to the chancellor by June 30 of each year. Each school also would have to post a public version of its emergency plan on its website. The public version would omit sensitive information that commission staff say could be used to cause harm.

At least one campus-wide emergency drill would be required at all institutions each year. The drill would include faculty, staff, students, and state and local emergency responders.

Institutions also would be required to establish threat assessment committees or teams that would discuss potential threats to the campus community.

The rule gives university and college presidents, working with public safety officials, authority to close their institutions in the event of an emergency. Institutions would be required to report any major emergency to the higher education chancellor or the executive vice chancellor for administration within a reasonable time, and/or when it is safe and practicable to do so.

The rule also states that faculty, staff and students should be offered emergency procedures training, especially how to react to violent acts on campus.

Commission staff say that the rule would ensure that schools have up-to-date emergency procedures and teams in place, and that they make information on how to respond to emergencies available to the campus community. The rule also would ensure that schools provide ongoing campus safety education and training.

During a campus or statewide emergency, commission staff say the rule would provide coordination of resources.

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