After 9/11 and the events taking place in April 2007 at Virginia Tech, many colleges and universities realized that they needed to update and enact security policies and procedures to respond effectively to new threats to the safety of their faculty members, students and staff members.

“Colleges and universities are dealing with threats they’ve never experienced before,” said Paul Denton, chief of police at The Ohio State University. “In the world after 9/11, we’ve had to refocus.”

Denton and his team at Ohio State have updated their response policies to incorporate new procedures for evacuation and detec-tion. Their response plans detail the roles of university security and local police and fire personnel and how they need to work to-gether.

After the shootings at Virginia Tech, Ohio State decided to train in national incident management systems (NIMS), which require university officials to work closely with the community.

“We focus on how our integrating command structure looks and who is working in leadership and decision-making roles,” Denton said.

The security plans emphasize the importance of creating new pathways to cooperating and building partnerships with local, state and federal agencies.

“That’s certainly where it all starts,” Denton said.

According to Michael McCarthy, director of security at St. John Fisher College, universities can’t rely on technology alone to combat new security threats.

“The human element is vital,” he said. “We are training security personnel to detect anything of a suspicious nature. For example, we have to know where and how to look for suspicious packages as well as international and domestic terrorists.”

Despite the heightened security threats, McCarthy still believes that institutions of higher education are safe.

“Statistically, college campuses are one of the safest places you can be,” he said.