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Drexel chosen for security program | The Triangle

Drexel chosen for security program

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano visited Drexel University’s Paul Peck Alumni Center April 2 to announce with President John A. Fry the seven colleges and universities that will participate in the Department of Homeland Security’s Campus Resilience Pilot Program.

Announced Feb. 1, the CR Pilot is a program intended to strengthen campus resilience during emergency situations. The initiative is led by the Department of Homeland Security, which is working with the Department of Education and the Department of Justice after recommendation from the Homeland Security Academic Advisory Council. The program is also supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, the Student and Exchange Visitor Program and the DHS Office of Academic Engagement.

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“[Napolitano] will be making an exciting announcement about Drexel’s expanding relationship with Homeland Security,” Fry said before Napolitano came up to speak. Earlier that day, Napolitano led a roundtable discussion organized by the Student Affairs Council with students and faculty members, discussing the safety issues that face colleges today.

“It was really interesting. The students had an opportunity to ask questions on a host of different subjects, and the secretary was very forthright with them and it was a good exchange,” Domenic Ceccanecchio, vice president of Drexel Public Safety, said.

“It’s designed to help communities of all sizes — public and private — prepare for, respond to, and recover from crises or emergencies,” Napolitano said as she began her talk. The program also extends to protect international students and aids in times of crisis. Application submissions from schools were accepted throughout the month of February, and the selection process was completed in March. She explained that all campuses should be trained to anticipate all of the “what ifs.”

“As we know from experience, a crisis can happen on campus without notice, whether it’s a shooter situation, a disaster like a hurricane or earthquake, or some other disaster that endangers lives,” Napolitano said. “This pilot is part of our ‘whole community’ approach.” Napolitano described the whole-community approach as a way to engage every person on campus, including school officials, students, community leaders and the public.

“This pilot will draw on existing resources to identify and build upon the good work that schools like Drexel have already done and are doing with respect to security,” Napolitano said. Funding will be redirected from the existing resources provided to each of the schools. Homeland Security has yet to request additional funding for the program.

In November 2012, Drexel was ranked by Security magazine as the third-safest campus in the country. Drexel was in the top 10 for the third year in the row. Napolitano went on to credit Drexel as a “true leader when it comes to campus security.” She highlighted the public awareness programs, training against active shooters, defense tactics on crime scenes and the “first-rate” Public Safety communications center.

“We have a master plan for the University and a master communication plan. Then we have different elements that make up our plan. We have vital building information like blueprints and plans that we share with the police and fire departments so they’re familiar with them. And then we have playbooks that we create with each of the department resources and information systems on how they respond to emergencies, too,” Ceccanecchio said.

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“We can provide technical assistance, envelop your current resilience plan, taking the best practices here and spreading them across the country,” Napolitano said, explaining how the CR Pilot would improve campus safety everywhere.

Napolitano also described the CR Pilot’s goal to decrease gun violence. “Some concrete examples of what may occur under the pilot, … [such as] developing comprehensive emergency management plans at schools of all kinds conducting site security assessments — we’ve already done a hundred universities since the tragedy at Newtown with more on the way — training of hundreds as campus law enforcement officers and emergency management plus other officials and partners on active-shooter awareness, mitigation and response, providing the way of online resources on campus including active-shooter training through our website, and finding a way on a campus setting to promote the ‘See Something, Say Something’ campaign,” she said.

Drexel University is among seven schools chosen to participate in the programs. The other universities, as announced by Napolitano, were Eastern Connecticut State University, Green River Community College, Navajo Technical College, Texas A&M University, Tougaloo College and the University of San Francisco. The different colleges represent various types of college settings across the country including urban, rural, public and private. Napolitano said she hopes the diverse backgrounds of the schools will provide a large amount of insight on campus safety.

Ceccanecchio also said that Drexel has two major exercises scheduled in June that will later lead to smaller exercises. One will be an active-shooter exercise at the Hagerty Library including local law enforcement and emergency responders. Drexel plans to make similar drills more complicated in the future to help the community prepare for the worst.

“It’s an ongoing process. We always want to get better approval. They bring a lot of resources to the table like their expertise. We’ve revised our emergency plan, and we want to make sure it’s compliant to the best practices. We want to then be able to expand to other schools across the country,” Ceccanecchio said.