(Mercer President William D. Underwood on Wednesday shared this message with faculty, staff and students as a follow-up to the tragedy that occurred this week at Virgina Tech.)
The entire Mercer family is saddened by the tragic events that occurred on the Virginia Tech campus earlier this week. In the aftermath of that tragedy, there are many questions about how this could happen on any college campus in America, and what could be done to prevent it from happening again.
In the free and open society that we enjoy, there are clearly some risks associated with those freedoms. Our challenge is to reduce that risk as much as possible. Our highest priority is, and always will be, the safety of our students, faculty and staff.
In addressing the Virginia Tech incident, I met yesterday with key administrators to initiate a complete review of our Emergency Response Plan. I have asked that we validate and improve the plan in order to ensure that we are doing everything possible to prevent and, if necessary, effectively respond to campus emergencies.
One of the key lessons learned at Virginia Tech is the importance of immediate and accurate information for decision makers, and the ability to rapidly communicate vital information campuswide. On the Macon campus we are implementing the RAVE wireless (cell phone) system to provide instant emergency communication to students. This system will augment our existing means of web-based, e-mail and call-in communication. We are also reviewing the feasibility of implementing additional methods for immediate communication on all campuses and regional academic centers.
In the meantime, put the phone numbers for Mercer Police in your phone’s memory. In Macon, the number is (478) 301-HELP (4357). In Atlanta, the number is (678) 547-6911. Also, a 24-hour recorded message call-in line is available to provide information regarding adverse weather or any other emergency. For the Macon campus and the Eastman Regional Academic Center, the number is (478) 301-5335, and for the Atlanta campus and the Henry County and Douglas County Regional Academic Centers, the number is (678) 547-6111.
Prevention of campus incidents will often depend on the vigilance of those in the community. While there is no way to prevent every conceivable threat, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the opportunity of a threat developing at Mercer:
* Always be aware of your surroundings. If you see something that strikes you as odd or suspicious, notify Mercer Police immediately.
* Do not give your Bearcard to others.
* Do not let strangers into your building. Make them contact the person they are there to see. If they don’t want to make contact or don’t know how to contact the person, contact Mercer Police immediately.
* Do not prop open the doors to your building or room. Lock your room doors when you leave.
* If you see people with weapons, chains, or strange out-of-place clothing, contact Mercer Police.
* Try not to panic if there is an emergency. Listen and follow directions given by the responsible parties. Stay where you are unless you are told to move or are in immediate danger.
* If you ever hear gunfire or screams, call Mercer Police.
* If you have reason to believe someone intends to cause harm at Mercer, contact Mercer Police.
Campuswide vigilance by every member of the Mercer family is a vital part of our effort to ensure potential threats are identified and addressed as soon as possible.
I want to thank you for helping make Mercer’s campuses as safe as possible.