Yellow is the new white
September 22, 2011 6:59 PM
Walking into the newly renovated safety and security offices, The Xaverian was greeted by a booming “Hello there!"
In March, the Xaverian reported that the administration has absorbed the duties of the now defunct campus police and the hunt was on for a director of safety and security. Well, the university got their man, and a whole new era of safety and security on this campus is about to start if Director of Safety and Security Paul Carey has anything to say about it.
Entering the offices, located in the Facilities Management building, feels slightly like entering a doctor's office.
Equipped with chairs and tables, the lobby is supervised 24/7 by a full-time staff member.
A small kitchen is located off of the emergency response room, which will serve as a roundtable meeting location in an instance of crisis.
The walls have been freshly painted – "Air force blue," Carey says, laughing.
Carey is personable, but there’s no doubt he takes his new position seriously.
He hails from Cape Breton, served 20 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, and retired as a captain military police officer.
After spending some time working with an internet company in British Columbia, he moved to Halifax where he worked with the Halifax and Dartmouth Bridge Commission and later the Halifax International Airport.
While working at the bridge commission, he conducted the first full-scale training exercise in emergency preparedness.
Similarly, he has conducted the first influenza pandemic tabletop exercise for the St. John Ambulance.
Most recently, he spent time with the Canadian Core of Comissionaires, managing the Department of National Defence in Nova Scotia.
He credits these past roles with providing him formalized training in security and emergency preparedness. “I love Antigonish, the town is great. Good for fishing, and close to Cape Breton,” he says of his new home.
The state of safety and security Carey reports to Keith Publicover, Vice President Student Experience and Recruitment.
Publicover underlines that coordinating the university's security efforts is a priority.
As changes are made to unify a previously piecemeal office, Publicover stresses, “We’re in the infancy of developing this whole new over-arching strategy.”
The over-arching strategy (and Carey's mantra) appears to be a "be prepared for anything" policy. "It's important to send the message: this is a safe campus, by and large. Location has a lot to do with it, but we can't be so complacent to think that nothing will ever happen in sleepy little Antigonish. We have to be prepared, we have to be watchful," says Carey.
"We're four months in, and so far my focus has been on getting the centre up and running, getting the new staff hired for the security operations centre, getting our emergency response plans, looking at how we do business, developing a patrol plan, [and] integrating students into our security and safety environment. [There are] so many things we need to do [to ensure] that at the end of the day what we decide to do is the right thing by our institution," explains Carey.
While Carey does not criticize any strategy used in the past, he repeatedly stresses that "we can always do better," and that continued re-evaluation is important. "
We want to find out what’s going on on this campus, not what happened. It has to be a coordinated effort between my staff and the rest of the campus community, the Antigonish community, [and] the county," he says.
The new team The new safety and security team is composed of both full-time staff and student employees.
Janet Beaton is the centre's operations officer as well as the university's occupational health and safety coordinator. Her office is now located in the safety and security centre.
Carey has hired 28 students to work as security staff and emergency first responders. Additionally, there are eight full-time security staff members and four full-time security centre operators who supervise the camera feed.
Student employees attended a training week in early September.
Carey is careful to note that the security staff is not hands-on. The policy, he explains, is to "observe and report." The security staff was trained on "writing a good report, treating people with dignity and respect, [and understanding suicide prevention]," says Carey.
The eight full time security members, badged special constables appointed by the province of Nova Scotia, have between 5 and 30 years of experience, according to Carey. Students may be unaware that these members of the security team, who have been on campus for several years, are protected under the police act.
They can enforce the bylaws of Antigonish for the parking violations on campus, explains Carey. While they are not RCMP officers, they have the information necessary to make a citizen’s arrest should it be necessary, says Carey.
Student security will be paired with the full-time security staff during "proactive patrols." There will be two such patrols on the weekend and on Wednesday.
One pair will patrol on foot. The other will be mobile, patrolling in the security SUV. Two emergency responders will also be on duty at these times to support the security team and The Inn.
"If someone is intoxicated and needs to go back to a residence, the Inn contacts the RA of the residence and our staff walk them back and turn them over to the RA so they are safe," explains Carey. "[Having] enough eyes and ears on the ground, so we can keep the campus as safe as possible for everybody" is a focus of Carey's plan, and students often provide this flexibility.
The number of on-duty staff is also event driven, with adjustments being made on the always busy Wednesday night and during events such as frosh week. Carey notes, "[F]rosh week [...] was really a team effort between us and the Inn staff [...] We have a real team environment between my staff and the Inn staff, which I think is essential."
The Inn's manager, Kris MacSween, agrees that the transition from one security structure to another has been good. “Absolutely, absolutely a good thing. It was sad to see the campus police go, I think it was an institution on our campus that had a lot of history. I know [because] I was a part of it, and I certainly didn’t want to see it go. There were some areas that needed to be addressed; this is just the way the chips fell,” says MacSween.
Security at the Inn is now done in-house. 22 students are employed with this security team, and about half of them are former Campus Police officers.
In the past, the university contracted the students' union and the campus police to provide campus security, thereby creating many student jobs.
Now, the university is funding only 28 jobs. In response to this drop in available student employment, Carey says, "Regardless of what happened in past years, [...] I do an assessment based on need. [...] I think there's been a reduction [in staff] here because I'm qualified to do an assessment, and I believe that I've done my due diligence in that assessment, and that I am appropriately employing people. If I am proven wrong, essentially what I need to do is make another assessment, and if it requires an increase in staff then certainly I'll look at that as a viable option.”
A new Safety and Security Advisory Committee (SSAC) has been formed to represent all relevant parties on campus.
Carey sits as chair of the 10-member committee. The current members of the committee are: Olwyn Foley, students' union president; Janet Stark, occupational safety and health representative; Kyler Bell, Director of Marketing and Communications; Leon MacLennan, facilities management; Joe MacDonald, human resources; Lori Connors, staff representative and assistant to Vice President Finance Ramsey Duff. Two seats have yet to be filled. One student seat is still available, but Publicover has said that the university has someone in mind.
The SSAC’s role is to advise the VP recruitment and student experience in regards to safety and security issues and as a whole add to the ideal that security at StFX should be, as Carey says, “a big safe, collective environment.”
Publicover and Carey both seem to have transparency as a key objective, and initiatives such as the SSAC help advance that goal. Publicover also discussed the possibility of having public town-hall style meetings to discuss security issues.
On his part, Carey is eager for students to attend the Safety and Security Day, held September 20. Future plans Whereas some may expect a bank of monitors, all 66 cameras on campus feed into the security office, cycling through a few at a time, on a 32” flat-screen monitor.
Carey explains that the cameras on campus are often in plain view, and signs indicate their presence. He stresses that students will be notified if additional cameras are added.
All camera installations must be authorized by the director of safety and security, and there must be a reasonable reason for installation. One major difference from previous years is that all cameras are now monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by a full-time security centre employee.
So, if you prop open a door, there is now a real chance that a security officer will be dispatched to come write you up. All operators are subject to an operators code of conduct, which will be available on the new security website once completed. New cameras are going to be gradually installed, with a priority on areas such as “liquor lane”, the wooded area behind MacIsaac Hall, and the parking lots.
Additionally, Carey is planning on carrying out a vulnerability assessment of the university. This assessment will help to determine priority areas where funding will be spent on improving safety and security.
The university is also working with the RCMP’s School Action for Emergencies (SAFE) program, designed to create emergency response plans to serious school incidents such as hostage situations, bomb threats, and active shooters.
Furthermore, a mass notification system is also in development by the TSG. This would be an emergency-only channel that would be able to warn students about events happening on campus. A development and implementation timeline was not available.