Safety & Situational Awareness

by: Jack Rawlings

Are we really guaranteed a right to safety on Troy campus or anywhere else for that matter? I would say maybe, but do not count on it. My experience in this matter ranges from law enforcement to priority resource protection of nuclear weapons, US Embassy, business security and most things in between. There is a major contrast between government and private security. In government security the operational procedures are clear, typically under contract, with very little or no flexibility. With private security it may be there one day but gone the next, as with the TU shuttle changes explained by Faith Karwacki. It all comes down to within reason.
Within reason is something safety and security professionals have to understand both from a criminal and civil point of view. But the definition is so vague it usually takes a judge or jury to decide after arbitration whether or not due care was taken in establishing within reason. Simply put, within reason means good judgment. Is that vague enough for you? Who is to say if one person’s judgment is better than others? With respect to campus safety the question would most certainly encompass whether or not the security measures are within reason. Is one light pole sufficient or would ten better serve the need? Is one security officer sufficient or would four serve the need? Is it within reason to expect a student, or anyone else, to be walking around the campus late at night? I can tell you this, however. Do not expect stadium lights around the entire campus with a cop on every corner. Those questions are even tougher when you have to decide on an insurance policy that will cover hundreds of thousands of dollars lost in the event of a wrongful death or injury settlement. Especially if a student expects a ride home but becomes a victim because a campus web site has posted incorrect shuttle hours.
Another thing people seem to rely on to much is a right of being secure. Sure we all have the right to be secure in our own homes as guaranteed in the 4th Amendment of the US Constitution. We also have an expectation to be safe while away from home but that is like a crutch, lean on it but do not rely on it. That is why there are so many safety tips for traveling either across campus or across the world. If you think for a moment that college campuses, or any campus is completely safe then you have had your head buried in the sand. Personal safety is one of those things people seem to disregard when they go about their everyday living. No telling what an individual is thinking about while strolling along the sidewalk. But I am willing to bet if you could read their mind they would not be wondering why that guy standing at a distance is watching them or realize there is a car coming up behind them until it is too late.
Situation awareness, simply put, is to know what is going on around you at all times. In every high risk, training I have had situational awareness was part of the instruction plan regardless of how many times I reviewed it in the past. Several times I have seen students cross the street without looking or walk to a car with their face buried in an over sized purse looking for keys that should have been in her hands before entering the parking lot. I am not trying to scare anyone or fault anyone for being a victim. But I am suggesting that something as simple as knowing what is going on around you helps. Situational awareness should be second nature.
I know campus officials take our safety seriously and I hope their training is consistent with a proactive and reactive attitude. But even with the best training we should not conduct ourselves in a manner of thinking we are one-hundred percent safe. That said, Karwacki introduces concerns safety officials should review while the cost of doing so is still at a minimum.

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