Measure Would Create Uniform System for Comprehensive Security Reviews
TRENTON – The Senate Education Committee today gave its approval to legislation Senator Jim Beach sponsored to ensure that college and university campuses statewide are fully prepared to deal with emergency situations, including violent attacks and disease pandemics.
“A college campus is not necessarily an oasis of peace separated from the outside world,” said Beach (D-Camden). “No matter how high the walls may be or how high-tech the surveillance may be, we cannot be lulled into a false sense of security. Holes in security must be filled before an event occurs, not uncovered in the wake of a tragedy.”
The Beach measure (A-2405/S-2092) would require each college and university to file a comprehensive five-year campus security plan with state health, homeland security and higher education officials. Along with setting a baseline level of preparedness for all potential events, the plan would be required to clearly spell out lines of authority and administrative succession in the event of an emergency, identify and provide for the protection of vital records and set forth procedures for periodic drills and tests. The plan would be required to be reviewed, updated and resubmitted every five years.
In the event of an on-campus incident, a plan would undergo an immediate review, with state homeland security and higher education officials authorized to work directly with the school and other agencies fix identified deficiencies.
The bill is based on the work of the New Jersey Campus Security Task Force created to recommend ways for New Jersey’s colleges and universities to enhance on-campus safety following the April 2007 Virginia Tech massacre. Its report, released in October of that year, recommended the inclusion of specific protocols and procedures for incidents involving an armed assailant, as well as establishing formal relationships between college and university officials and state and local law enforcement, health officers and first responders.
“We need to know that every college campus is prepared to properly deal with any event, not just hope that a bad situation won’t be made worse by outdated or poorly defined procedures,” said Beach. “The lives and safety of students and staff are much too valuable.”
The committee released the bill 5-0. It now is poised for a vote in the full Senate.