Thursday, September 28

Pima College increases security measures

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Security at Pima Community College is an ongoing concern but several initiatives are in place.   

Text Alerts

Mass alerts from Pima Police go out by email and text alerts. About 70,000 people in Tucson get the emails, but 7,000 to 9,000 get the text alerts because people must volunteer their numbers for the alert system, according to Pima Police officer Michelle Nieuwenhuis.  

Pima Police wants to increase the number of people receiving text alerts, because people are more inclined to check texts than they are email. Plus, there won’t be the issue of messages accidentally ending up in the spam filter. 

Students’ information will be entered into Omnilert, which is Pima’s text alert vendor and people will then have the ability to opt out if they don’t want to receive alerts. 

“… If you get a text alert from the college,” Nieuwenhuis said. “It’s generally because there’s a legitimate emergency and it’s happening. It’s ongoing right now.” 


Pima Police are also in the process of revitalizing the college’s Community Action Teams, or CAT. 

One of their measures is to perform drills on short notice. Emergency drills were carried out at the Northwest Campus on Oct. 16 and Downtown Campus on Oct. 17. 

Additionally, there are plans to issue radios to CAT members to ease communication during emergencies. 

“We want to start doing unannounced (drills) because then you really get a sense of how people are going to respond in an emergency,” Nieuwenhuis said. 

The plan is to do a drill exercise at every Pima campus in the next academic year, partially to test emergency response systems but also to engage with staff and CAT teams. 

One of the lessons learned from the Downtown Campus drill was equipment changes will be needed. During the drill,  an external loudspeaker system was activated by a hyper spike, which is tied into the fire panel, according to Nieuwenhuis. 

CAT team members also noted that traffic flow was an issue at the Downtown Campus. A minor traffic jam happened when people were trying to leave the campus in their vehicles which was exacerbated from the increase in pedestrians walking away from Pima buildings. 

Furthermore, some people had to be shuffled off the pavement to clear the way for vehicle traffic. Pima staff during the drill’s debriefing also noted that people should remain aware of their surroundings, citing an alarm over the summer that some students didn’t hear because of their use of headphones.  

There are numerous parking spaces but only a handful of entrance and exits Downtown, which may make traffic flow a challenge in the event that Emergency Services need to get to the campus when people are making their way in an emergency situation. It was also noted that city traffic also can add to this issue.       

“If you’re trying to distance yourself from the campus, getting in your car and being stuck 25th in line, trying to get off campus may not be the safest place for you to be,” Nieuwenhuis said.

If you need to get away from the Downtown Campus in an emergency, it may be quicker to go across the street or into the residential area where you’re probably experience less traffic. 

ID badges

Pima policy now states that faculty and staff must wear ID badges at all times, except when it may cause a safety hazard, such as working with equipment. They can be worn with a clip or lanyard and placed between an employee’s waist to collar.   

Pima administration’s justification for the measure is to enhance customer service and security, citing similar policies that are being adopted by other institutions.    

“At a time when a threat can arise quickly,” Pima Chancellor Lee Lambert said in a recent email. “The ability to identify who should or should not be present has become vital.”

This view is challenged by the PCCEA President Matej Bogusz. He worries in that scenario, ID badges would make the wearer more of a target. 

“I see almost zero security benefit for forcing everybody to wear badges,” Bogusz said.