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Today Fresh@News talks to Debbie Patch, Associate Director in the Department of Public Safety. Note: in our last posting, we told our subscribers about Parents Novasis, a new way for parents to have access to student information. We neglected to give website with information about this system. The correct address is: www.villanova.edu/studentlife/specprograms/parents/novasis/
Fresh@News: Here at Fresh@News, we always get questions about campus safety. Tell us a little bit about the role of the Public Safety Department at Villanova.
Debbie Patch: At Villanova, the safety of our community is very important to us. We work hard to create a safe campus environment where all of our students, faculty, and staff can devote their energy to our educational mission. We have a great safety record here, and we are very proud of what we have done.
F@N: What are some of the challenges, and what are some of the things that students can do to help foster the safety of the community?
DP: There are several different kinds of issues that we are concerned about. First, there are large issues that touch the whole community, which can range from weather emergencies, power outages, or, in extreme cases, personal danger of one sort or another. Naturally, we work quickly to rectify the situation, but communication is very important and that is a two way street. So on the one hand, we take a community service approach, and we ask all community members, students, faculty and staff to assist the Department in its efforts by being the extra eyes and ears in the community at large and to communicate what they see to us. Reporting safety concerns and crimes as well as alerting the Department of Public Safety about any concerns assists us in our mission of creating a safe environment.
F@N: That sounds great, but what about the other direction, when Public Safety communicates with the community?
DP: At Public Safety we utilize all means of communication, but especially with our student population, we have found that the best way to reach large numbers of people on campus is through text-messaging and e-mail. We have now instituted an impressive system called Nova-Alert. Anyone who is interested can register a cell-phone number and/or email address with us to be notified in the event of an emergency. In an emergency, we can send text-messages and e-mail messages to thousands of subscribers in a very short amount of time. For example, if classes are delayed in a weather emergency, we can reach our faculty and students and let them know there is a problem and refer them to the website or to our emergency call-in number for further information. Periodic tests of the system are conducted throughout the year. For more information and to register go to https://alert.villanova.edu. If students have a change in cell phone number or email they should update their information on the Nova Alert Web site.
F@N. That sounds great. Can parents subscribe? Will they get a lot of “spam”?
DP: Anyone can subscribe, and interested parents should definitely sign up. More to the point, parents should make sure that their son or daughter is registered. (The student will thank you when the system tells about an 8:30 a.m. class that is cancelled, allowing the student to sleep in.) Villanova is very careful not to overuse the system, so you won’t get a lot of messages.
F@N: Does Villanova have contingency plans for large scale emergencies and crises? Where should parents go for information during an emergency?
DP: The Department of Public Safety and the University have an emergency preparedness plan. The University is engaged in preparing for various emergencies and has been involved in several emergency “table-top” drills where we simulate different emergencies to test our readiness. If there is an emergency, the best place to go for information is the University website. We would try to update that as quickly as possible during an emergency. Please refer to http://www.villanova.edu/president/crisisresponse/ as well as the Public Safety Website http://www.villanova.edu/publicsafety/emergency/.
F@N: We’ve covered some of the bigger situations, but what about safety on an individual level. Any advice there?
DP: After the students have been on campus for awhile, they start to get very comfortable and sometimes become less cautious with their belongings. Some students will begin to keep their doors open and or unlocked. We encourage students to remember some of the basic safety tips, so they can avoid being victims to crime. For example, resident students should not prop open the outside doors to the buildings, they should keep their doors shut and locked when they are out of the room, and also they should never leave their belongings (such as laptops, small electronics and backpacks) unattended in open areas. These are simple things that most students are already doing. Students are encouraged to utilize the Department of Public Safety escort service when shuttle services are not operational and when there is a concern for safety (i.e. walking alone at night). Prompt reporting to the Public Safety is also essential in the case of any emergency or crime.
F@N: Often, parents are interested in the health and safety of their students on campus. Can you tell me a little about how the Office of Public Safety creates a safe environment?
DP: Our department performs daily patrol of the campus. We have officers that work 24 hours a day 7 days a week on three different shifts. Officers perform patrol on foot, bike and vehicle. We have a unit of Residential Housing Officers whose responsibilities include monitoring visitation and access into the building between the hours of 10:30 pm and 6:30 am. Many of our officers are Emergency Medical Technicians as well as First Responders who have been trained to assist in emergency medical response. The Department of Public Safety works closely with the Villanova Emergency Medical Services as well as the Student Health Center. The Department maintains excellent relationships with outside agencies such as the Radnor Police Department, Bryn Mawr Fire Department as well as with Radnor Ambulance and paramedics. One thing that parents should do is to encourage students to place the Public Safety emergency number (610-519-4444) in their cell phones, so they have it in the event of an emergency. Students should feel free to call this number any time they need assistance. There is also an online Anonymous Crime Reporting form for students who witness crimes such as vandalism on campus. The anonymous submission form has been helpful in identifying the culprit in many cases. The Public Safety website is a great resource for students and parents. Students can find information and online forms on the site, in addition to the Annual Campus Security Report at http://www.villanova.edu/publicsafety/.
F@N: You talked about safety in the residence halls. Does the Public Safety work with the Residence Life staff?
DP: Each year, our office works closely with the Residence Life staff (RAs). We participate in training and workshops with the Office of Residence Life and work with them on a variety of projects throughout the year. During the school year, the RA is often the primary contact person when there is a problem in the hall. The RAs work with the housing officers that are stationed within the buildings. As I mentioned earlier, our staff also performs daily patrol of the campus, including the residence halls.
F@N: Can you tell me about the Wildcat shuttle?
DP: The Wildcat shuttle provides on and off campus transportation for students. The shuttle runs a limited route in the evenings and on the weekends. There is also a shuttle to the King of Prussia Mall that also operates on Fridays and Saturdays between 6 p.m. and midnight. The shuttle service does not operate during break periods. Students can access the shuttle schedule on the Public Safety web site.
F@N: The RAD self-defense program for women seems to be very popular. Can you tell me more about it?
DP: RAD is an acronym for Rape Aggression Defense. The RAD program was started by a law enforcement officer who wanted to teach women basic self-defense techniques. The techniques are easy to remember and very practical. The RAD program at Villanova is a series of workshops that educate women about sexual assault and teaches them how to protect themselves. As an instructor in the program, we talk about risk reduction and ways to avoid risks. The women leave the program feeling empowered and are more aware of their surroundings. The program is very effective and the participants have the opportunity to do a real life simulation to test their knowledge. The course is free for all community members.
F@N: You’ve provided a lot of information about Public Safety. If you had to give any advice to parents, what would you tell them?
DP: In addition to open communication and encouraging their sons and daughters to report things that concern them to Public Safety, I would suggest to parents that they enroll in the Nova Alert System as well as insuring their student is also registered and, as I said earlier, make sure that the students have the public safety emergency number saved in the address book of their cell phones. Lastly, I hope that parents will check out the Public Safety web site www.publicsafety.villanova.edu . The website has a lot of useful information and contains all the information discussed above.