Wingate makes changes to the safety protocol in reaction to the campus lockdown

Mariah Anderson, Staff Writer

“Wingate University has issued immediate lock-down procedures for the main campus. Please lock all doors and windows and await further instruction.” With this 11:35 a.m. text, Wingate University instituted a lockdown on Monday, February 26, 2018.

Rumors of an active shooter on campus caused students in the dining hall to race to their dorms since they had no place to hide in the open hall.

Students and faculty in classrooms immediately moved to lock the doors, but some rooms had no locks. The people in these rooms used chairs and tables to barricade the entryway as they awaited further instructions and details from the university staff.

During the lockdown, students and faculty were notified that the shooting had happened across the street from campus on Jerome Street earlier that morning. However, Wingate took precaution and placed the campus on lockdown to ensure student safety.

After the lockdown, the question at hand became: Was Wingate University prepared for a lockdown, and how could they better prepare for similar events in the future?

One possible way to prepare for the future would be to ensure that proper communication occurs with everyone: faculty, staff, students, and parents. Professor Karen Dunn stated that she was unaware that there was a lockdown until a student told her because she was busy teaching when the message was sent out, and the alarm was not audible from the classroom.

Another professor, Dr Jim Coon, stated that he did not receive the text alerts because he had mistakenly subscribed to the weather alerts.

Both professors were uncertain about what procedures to follow, with Professor Dunn stating, “As a professor, I felt that I should have known what to do, but I didn’t know what to do.” In fact, she found herself asking her students, “What should we do?”

The students and professor jumped into action, but overall the classroom felt unprepared for such an emergency, suggesting that one area of improvement Wingate might pursue would be to have mandatory training for faculty and staff on how to handle emergency protocols.

Some parents expressed reservations at the lack of communication in place, with one parent stating, “I think they could have been a little more forthcoming with the fact that the students were following safety protocol. It was not until I was contacted by my daughter that I found out that a safety protocol was not in place or worse had not been previously practiced by Staff and Students.”

One student, Cameron Smetak, criticized the amount of time it took to alert the students, “We should have been informed that there were shots fired across the highway right when it happened, not an hour later like we did.” An immediate alert system in the future might save lives.

Wingate University has already started instituting changes. A recent email to the campus community stated that the university was working on the doors without locks, posting lockdown guidelines in each room, improving communication with Union County, planning to conduct drills for each emergency, and adding additional sirens on campus.

However, this email was not sent to parents of students, so some parents are unaware of these upcoming changes, with one parent stating that he was “not aware of any improvements since the incident.”

However, students have noted that Wingate University is already implementing the promised changes, with new deadbolts being installed on doors that previously lacked them.

The faculty have noted positive changes as well. Dr. Coon stated, “We have gotten a couple of emails as faculty and staff, they are going through all of the procedures and looking at what worked and what didn’t. They’ve gotten feedback from lots of people, too.”

Although the recent lockdown was frightening for the campus community, it helped Wingate identify strengths and weaknesses in its emergency system. One parent, commenting on the success of this lockdown, suggested, “Simply have a plan. Practice it as well. The campus is a simple one that makes security in such an event more possible.”

With the improvements in place, Wingate will become a safer community, one that is fully prepared for emergencies and able to respond in a timely fashion in order to prevent tragedy.

Wingate University is advising all students to update their contact information on WUSync so that future alert systems can reach the entire campus community.

Edited by: Brea Childs

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