This story was originally published in the Mar. 21 issue of Fourth Estate.
An email announcement on behalf of Dave Farris, director of Safety and Emergency Management in the Environmental Health and Safety Office, was sent out Feb. 16 to remind students that Mason is “committed to creating an environment where everyone in our community feels safe and can thrive without fear.”
Though this announcement was not in response to a specific incident, Farris discussed that college campuses are as equally susceptible to violent persons as other public spaces. Farris, with the input of other staff members, assembled this email to ensure that students have the “resources they need and know the best practices in the unlikely event that you are faced with a life-threatening situation.”
This email included a brief summary of “On Campus Violence Response Procedures” that explained how students should respond in the event of an active shooter situation. The “Shots Fired” video, produced by the Center for Personal Protection and Safety, was purchased by Mason to share with students. This 21-minute video can be found on mymason.gmu.edu in the “Mason Links” sidebar under “Active Shooter.”
The “Run Hide Fight Video” created by the city of Houston also outlines similar active shooter response procedures. This six-minute video can be viewed on YouTube by searching “Run Hide Fight.”
Mason’s emergency preparedness app, In Case of Crisis (ICOC), which is used by numerous universities as a resource for students in emergency situations, includes the information found in Mason’s Emergency Preparedness Guides. The ICOC app does require satellite reception or internet access to function, so in a regional emergency when connections may be restricted, students can still access vital information.
The “On Campus Violence Guide” is a five-page guide produced by the Environmental Health and Safety Office that provides valuable steps used to prevent workplace violence.
Farris’s email also reminded students to familiarize themselves with campus safety policies established by the Mason Police Department and encouraged students to look into additional resources offered by University Police.
Mason Alert (alert.gmu.edu) is Mason’s official emergency notification system that provides updates on class cancellations, regional emergencies, severe weather alerts and other information that affects campus operations. Mason visitors are strongly encouraged to also register with Mason Alert through their cellular devices to receive text message alerts in potentially hazardous situations.
There are specific safety strategies to keep in mind both on and off campus. These tips, provided by Mason’s Wellness, Alcohol and Violence Education and Services Offices (WAVES), can help you avoid dangerous situations and maintain your personal security.
- Keep your room and car locked at all times and have keys and ID ready before you go outside.
- Avoid walking alone, especially if you are tired, upset, distracted or under the influence of any recreational substances. Always use well-lit paths and be aware of your surroundings.
- Keep your car in suitable working condition, and always have a back-up plan in case of car failure. Always check inside and under your car before entering, especially at night.
- Familiarize yourself with whom you should contact in an emergency, and have emergency numbers saved on speed dial on your mobile device.
- Loan your key, even if it is to a trusted friend. Always make sure door locks behind you, and never allow someone you don’t know enter your residence hall.
- Leave identification, wallets, financial information or valuables in open view even in your room.
- Carry mace. Mace is illegal within the Commonwealth of Virginia. However, do carry a whistle and pepper spray to protect yourself from threatening strangers.