A week after the Dawson College shooting, is Ryerson prepared for disaster?

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By Eric Lam

The shooting at Dawson College in Montreal last week has raised questions of just how prepared Ryerson is for a similar incident. But the adminstration and campus security are not about to push the panic button.

“(We’re at) a heightened level, absolutely,” said Julia Lewis, associate director of the Centre for Environmental Health and Safety Managament.

“We take these events seriously and we promise to take a look at the protocols we have in place,” she said.

Lawrence Robinson, Manager of Safety and Security Management, said Ryerson security works with police in crisis situations.

A special unit of Toronto police officers have “familiarized themselves” with Ryerson’s campus and frequently patrol the area throughout the day and night, said Constable Victor Kwong. Following Columbine, officers developed a protocol for campus shooting emergencies.

“Now we would go in as first line officers, before we would have waited for (Emergency Task Force) officers,” Kwong said.

Robinson primary focus is on prevention through investigation, but even he acknowledges the vast majority of shootings come up “without warning” and the clues are only visible after the fact.

President Sheldon Levy echoed this, saying that is impossible to install a “mental detector on campus” to understand what everyone is thinking.

Although an Emergency Preparedness, Awareness, and Response Plan on the school’s website covers everything from bomb threats to floods and tornadoes, it has nothing on shootings.

“We have a section dealing with civil unrest and rioting and certainly some elements in that section are applicable,” said Robinson.

He stressed caution in modifying the plan to include shootings because of how unpredictable an event like that would be. He said the online copy was the community version, and all departments receive an expanded version.

“It’s more of a synopsis,” Lewis said, holding up a bright yellow binder that supposedly holds the plan, but is conspicuously empty.

And while Lewis and Robinson repeatedly stressed the importance of communication with the student body along with staff and faculty, few Ryerson students are admittedly prepared if an emergency were to occur.

In fact, many student are unaware that by dialing 80 they can be immediately put through to security.

“Wow, I didn’t even know there was one,” said Jabir Baray, a first-year Computer Engineering student.

Even more distressing for KatieGardner, a first-year Journalism student, is the blue emergency intercom pole standing a few feet away from her. On it is a prominently displayed out-of-order sign.

“I don’t understand how you could have an emergency phone out of order. It’s hilarious.”

Robinson was aware of the problem but said parts are bound to break down. Security had been waiting at least a week for the parts to come in to repair the broken intercom, but reiterated that every system has a certain amount of downtime.

“There was a fire alarm in the library building recently and everybody just sat there calmly until someone said to get out,” said Olga Siniakov a first-year Graphic Communications Management student. “They all just said, ‘I don’t know what to do!’”

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