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Staying Safe on Campus

Sound Planning — and Sound Judgment — Are Key to Emergency Preparedness
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The start of a new academic year is a great time to think about campus safety and how to prepare and respond to an emergency, whether it be a power outage or an earthquake.

“No matter what advanced response protocols are in place or what communications technology we have, nothing beats having a plan to prepare for and deal with emergencies,” says University Police Captain John Brockie.

Sue Fisher agrees. She serves as emergency management coordinator with University Police. “Know where you can get support and find safety. Know the escape routes of buildings you are in, as well as the locations of evacuation areas.”

Fisher advises that members of the campus community should consider what supplies they need, especially when it may not be possible to get home right away. “Consider something compact and easily portable, such as a backpack, that can carry a bottle of water, important phone numbers, a small first-aid kit, a small amount of prescription medication and a snack,” she suggests.

In this era of increased security awareness, emergency planners across higher education also advise campus community members to remember the mantra, “If you see something, say something,” and to exercise good judgment, avoiding action that could be considered suspicious by others. For example, the mailing of unusual, unidentified substances can trigger unintended responses by recipients, who are now well-versed in taking appropriate precautions.

Faculty member Jon Bruschke knows this firsthand. This past spring, he mailed a plastic bag containing crushed marshmallows to a campus colleague who had accompanied him on a camping trip. What was intended as a humorous reference to making s’mores over a campfire didn’t go as planned. The recipient, who didn’t know what the substance was, nor understand the unsigned note attached, called University Police. This culminated with the interruption of classes and the evacuation of McCarthy Hall.

“It was a personal lesson for me, and a reminder for all of us, to be mindful in the future,” said Bruschke. “I feel terrible about my role in what happened. Something innocent in nature took a wrong turn.”

A number of online resources are available to the support the campus community in making good decisions and enhancing readiness. The campus emergency preparedness website at provides information on how to deal with emergencies, preparedness checklists, what to do in active shooter situations or during an earthquake and more.

Staying mindful of emergency-response procedures and participating in evacuation, shelter-in-place and earthquake drills are also important ways to prepare, says Fisher. “Drills reinforce proper response and help develop the skills needed to keep yourself and others safe. Also, talk to friends, family and everyone in your classes or office to make sure they are prepared for the ‘what if,’ too.”

In the event of an actual emergency, University Police will send automated phone calls and text messages to members of the campus community. To make sure you receive these messages, check that your cell phone numbers are up-to-date via the CSUF portal.

The University website also will be updated during emergency events as details emerge and any instructions to campus are issued.