OCC reviewing its safety protocols

Orange Coast College is reviewing how it would respond if a gunman were to open fire on campus.

The move came last week on the same day that the college's faculty expressed concern about some safety measures related to lockdowns and active shooters.

OCC will pay $2,500 for Los Angeles-based safety training company Double Tap Training Center to study the college's procedures and prepare an audit report with recommendations for the governing board.

The Coast Community College District board of trustees approved the expenditure July 17. At that meeting, OCC's Academic Senate presented a safety resolution listing items of concern such as some doors opening or locking only from the outside and confusion about how the college would communicate in an emergency.

"Barricading was a big concern in my division," said Marilyn Kennedy, the English professor who introduced the resolution to the Academic Senate.

The senate, made up of faculty representatives, approved the document May 7 and urged administrators to start a discussion with teaching staff.

"We don't feel like there's an active dialogue on campus that's addressing our concerns," said Kennedy, who credited the administration for being open to hearing faculty's suggestions.

She said she started worrying about lockdowns in December when robbery suspects sparked one at Cal State Fullerton.

But college officials say OCC has robust safety plans in place for armed intruders and other emergencies; it's just that not everyone knows about them.

"We're working on a lot of training, but we need to be able to communicate that better to our internal audiences," district spokeswoman Martha Parham said.

For instance, she said, students and faculty members at OCC are already entered into a campuswide notification system whether they know it or not.

Within the past three months, the college district integrated its registration files with an electronic alert system that can send out automated phone calls, texts and emails.

Previously, when students had to opt in to the system, only 2,500 students — about 10% — were signed up, OCC Vice President of Administrative Services Rich Pagel said.

Now, students and employees are automatically entered into the system and have to opt out if they don't want to receive messages, he said.

The campus also has loudspeakers installed across campus that can be used to announce a lockdown, Pagel said.

OCC's website has short descriptions of what to do during emergencies like fires, earthquakes or lockdowns.

The college district is also working on sending out videos that detail emergency responses and plans to invite faculty to training sessions held for management and other staff, Parham said.

"Those resources are out there," Pagel said. "They're available. It's just a matter of finding them on the web page."

Kennedy said those steps are helpful but faculty could use more.

She said teachers want guidance on practical concerns like where students could go to the bathroom in a lockdown — something that can become a concern during a seven-hour event like the one at Fullerton.

"There's still the concern of what if we had a lockdown for several hours," Kennedy said. "What do I do about people who need water or about people who might have small medical needs?"

Although OCC's audit of its active shooter response hasn't started yet, the man running it says the process will likely be wide ranging.

Interviews with students and faculty, local police staffing levels and more will all factor in, said Simon Cruz, the owner of Double Tap Training Center.

"Basically the audit will cover the existing policy if there's one in place — assess it, when it was established and what kind of compliance training they've done," he said.

After the audit, Cruz will make recommendations and it will be up to the district's board of trustees to decide if any changes are needed.

"The better trained we are the better we can handle all the unforeseen conditions," Pagel said, adding, "I think that you'd find Orange Coast College really is a safe campus."

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