By Mickey Winfield: PNT Staff Writer
In the wake of last spring’s campus shooting at Virginia Tech, Gov. Bill Richardson and the state of New Mexico are implementing a campus safety plan for all 28 state public colleges and University campuses, including Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.
“We have a lot of security plans in place already,” ENMU Campus Police Chief Ray Chambers said. “We also have the assistance from other agencies (and) they’re out here in a matter of minutes in case something happens. We’re pretty safe — everybody on the campus from the president down works very hard to make sure that we are as safe as possible.”
The state has formed a Campus Safety Committee, with a representative from each institution, which will continue to meet and oversee campus safety efforts on all campuses. Chambers is the representative for ENMU and has already attended a couple of the meetings.
Chambers also said that local agencies will be conducting integrated training drills in the coming months.
“We’re all going to train together, so that if Portales has to respond (at ENMU) they will be familiar with our plan and so we’ll be trained together and hopefully we can prevent anything like Virginia Tech out here,” Chambers said. “We’re working on that right now with the Portales PD and also I’ve got the Clovis SWAT team available. They’re going to come down and give us a class.”
One of the proposals submitted to the Governor was an effective campus communication plan.
“We have had meetings about crisis management situations,” ENMU spokesman Wendel Sloan said. “We have discussed ways to communicate to students in the most effective way possible.”
“We’re looking at communication systems that will allow us to notify faculty, staff, students and anybody on campus so we can alert them to what’s going on at all times,” Chambers said.
Chambers said that communication system could take the form of a combination of cell phone text messages, alarms or sirens. The campus police chief also said the University may work in tandem with the city emergency response team to combine efforts and resources to get the system.
“We may have to help (the city) obtain the system for everybody,” Chambers said. “We can use it and so can anybody else for any other emergency like tornados or flooding or anything else that comes up.”
“We’re all looking at different projects right now,” Chambers said. “We’re trying to see what’s feasible and what’s affordable and from there we’ll go on and do what we have to do, but one way the another we’re going to increase our emergency safety plans.”
“Eastern takes the security of our students very seriously,” ENMU president Stephen Gamble said. “Our purpose is higher education and without solid security measures in place, our students wouldn’t be able to pursue their academic goals.”