Safety update for Penn State

April 17, 2007

The shooting at Virginia Tech is a reminder that no community, no matter how safe, is immune to violence. Our prayers and condolences go out to the Virginia Tech community.

I note especially that one of our recent alumni, the son of a Penn State employee, died in the Virginia Tech attack yesterday. I know the Penn State family around the world will keep Jeremy Herbstritt and his entire family in our prayers and thoughts.

I hope the rush to judgment by the media in the early hours after the Virginia Tech tragedy evolves into a more thoughtful, long-term discussion about the realistic expectations for prevention and response.

Penn State has historically been one of the safest universities in the country.

But one person can change that in a matter of seconds.

At all Penn State campuses, extensive efforts are taken to promote a safe and secure place for living and learning. The safety of students, faculty and staff has been, and continues to be, a top priority.

During this time of concern, I want to let the Penn State community know that we have detailed emergency plans in place, which we update regularly. At the University Park campus, we have a full-time emergency coordinator who we share with the Centre Region to assure collaboration.

We have a large police department that regularly trains for unusual situations that we hope and pray never happen.

Members of my senior management staff meet several times a year with police, fire, ambulance, emergency and communications personnel. These are extended sessions to conduct exercises we all hope never become a reality.

At University Park we have a police department of approximately 50 armed officers and dozens of other police personnel. Moreover, we have excellent mutual aid partnerships with all local and regional police and emergency services in addition to the Pennsylvania State Police and the FBI.

Our police department works regularly with the Department of Public Information, and we have detailed plans in place for how to communicate in an emergency. There is no single best way to communicate with everyone, so we have a number of different
communication tools available. The Penn State Newswire and the Penn State Live news Web site are tied into approximately a half million subscribers. We also have notification systems through WPSU radio and TV along with all other local media outlets.

In addition, last summer Penn State launched PSUTXT, a text-messaging system that can send emergency information directly to cell phones. To subscribe, visit and click on the registration link at the bottom of the page under the PSUTXT heading.

Anyone at Penn State's University Park campus who needs assistance in coping with the Virginia Tech tragedy is urged to contact Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), 221 Ritenour Building, University Park, at (814) 863-0395 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily, or the CAN HELP line, available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at (800) 643-5432. In addition, the staff in the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center are available for people who want to seek assistance.

-- Graham B. Spanier
President of Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009