It’s 9 o’clock on a Thursday night and your class has just ended. As you gather your belongings and start on your 5-minute walk to the parking lot, you can’t help but notice that you seem to be the only person around. As you clutch to your backpack there is a rustling sound coming from the bushes. You start to calculate the time it will take you to run to your car. Is it faster to run to the blue light emergency post in the parking lot? As you pick up speed you grab for your car keys to unlock your vehicle, so when you get close enough you can jump in. As you fumble for your keys you grasp your cell phone. Luckily you have downloaded the FSCJ Safe app and are ready to call for help with the push of a button. Now armed with an emergency plan you turn to face the noise that has been following you in the bushes. Heart racing, adrenaline pumping you take a step closer and see the culprit. It’s not a stalker, it’s a Canadian goose and its thinks that you may have some food. As you release a sigh and the tension that has built up subsides, you return on your way to the parking lot. As you get closer you can see the security officer in the front of the lot and you instantly feel safer knowing that if you needed help it is not far away.
Although this scenario is fictional, it makes you wonder how safe are you on campus? The answer is safer than you may realize. Florida State College at Jacksonville was recently named in the top 3 colleges in the state of Florida for safety and crimes per capita according to a study published in April 2017 by yourlocalsecurity.com. The south campus of FSCJ sees thousands of students on a weekly basis. The safety of these students, along with the safety of the faculty and staff, is top priority to Chief Patrick Maddox.
Maddox, chief of public safety and security for south campus, supervises a staff of 17 officers, including two sergeants. These officers ensure the that the campus remains a safe place for all students, staff and faculty by constant monitoring of the parking lots, buildings and grounds for security threats.
“I feel like our campus is ahead of the curve, as far as the state college system is concerned… Our administration here, from the college president on down, is extremely proactive when it comes to safety and security. When they see a need, they fill it. When we have a problem, they listen… This college in particular is excellent about giving us the resources we need to safely secure our campus,” Maddox said.
When the officers come to work the first thing they do is walk around the campus to make sure that the buildings and the environment is safe for everyone. They unlock the buildings so that the staff can get to work and so that the students and faculty can get to class. They make sure that the parking lots are safe. The officers then begin their regular security patrols.
“My officers are deployed. You will not come into the security office and see five officers sitting down here taking a lunch break… They are mobile. They are out on a golf cart, they’re out walking beats, they’re out checking doors, they’re out looking for suspicious activity. So, you’ll see them around the campus… They are assigned to all major areas of the campus including the Wilson Center… This college is extremely proactive in protecting its people,” Maddox said.
If a student, staff or faculty member needs assistance, there are emergency blue lights located around the campus on tall white posts. These are emergency beacons that will connect you directly to all security officer radios. This security feature makes it possible for the officers to get to you in a matter of minutes to help with any situation. The campus is also equipped with weather radio technology that monitors severe weather in the surrounding areas and fire panel technology that alerts security in the event of a fire. There are automated and manual systems that enable notifications to be sent out to the students and faculty in the event of a safety threat, fire, or weather emergency.
In the event of an emergency, Maddox stressed that the most important thing to do is remain calm.
“Emergencies come in lots of shiny packages… The one thing that is common among all of them is, keep calm. The first thing you can do, the best thing you can do is not lose your head in any emergency. Once you master that part you can retain that critical thinking element and then start going through your own safety tool box in your head,” Maddox said.
South campus has an array of technology that helps the security officers to keep the school safe and have recently added a user-friendly app for smartphones. The FSCJ SAFE app is free to download and is available for Apple and Android phones. The app has multiple features that help to ensure the safety of everyone on all FSCJ’s campuses. There is a complete list of emergency contacts and maps of each campus. There are plans available to suggest what to do for certain emergencies such as active shooters, bomb threats, severe weather, hazmat spills and more. There is a safety toolbox located within the app that has a flashlight, loud alarm, college emergency hotline and the ability to send your location to security via gps. There is even a virtual walkhome feature that allows the security office dispatch to keep an eye on students as they walk to their car.
“This is a fantastic, free safety and security app that you can have on your phone, anywhere with you, and you will also receive emergency notifications over that app… What a litany of fantastic items to have, and that’s monitored all right here, in house, at each campus,” Maddox said.
The hard work of the security officers at FSCJ, along with the new technology, helps the students feel safe while on campus. Emmanuel Thalerand has been a student at FSCJ, on and off since 2004, and is currently working on obtaining his bachelor’s degree. Thalerand stated that he feels safe while on south campus, “I run into the security all the time and I speak to them…I was unaware of that app [FSCJ SAFE], but it’s good to know.”
Another student at south campus is Samantha Mathers. Mathers is also working on her bachelor’s degree and has been a student at FSCJ since spring of 2016. Mathers feels that the south campus in general is safe and noted that she has never felt nervous about walking alone to her car in the parking lot at night. When asked about the FSCJ app, Mathers had not heard of it before but sounded excited about the app and its features, “that is amazing… I think that is something that most people would be interested in, especially women.”
The safety and security of south campus and all the people who frequent it, rely on the tools provided to the security officers. The FSCJ SAFE app has the potential to save lives and is easily available for all who frequent any of the campuses. Maddox explained his enthusiasm for this new app, “At every security or safety meeting that I have, whether it’s with staff and faculty or students, I say ‘Listen, we have to get onboard. Everybody has to have this! It’s free! Look what we can do with it!”
The FSCJ SAFE app is available now and free to download from the app store.