Penn State stays prepared for emergencies

January 23, 2014

Recent events around the nation have brought the topic of campus safety to the forefront. At Penn State, this topic is always on the minds of campus police and those working in emergency management.

"We take extensive efforts to promote a safe and secure place for learning, living and working on all of our campuses. The safety of students, faculty, staff and visitors to our University has been, and continues to be, a top priority," said Steve Shelow, assistant vice president for police and public safety. "However, we do like to remind members of our community, some of whom are new since fall, that Penn State has a number of measures in place to enhance security. Everyone in the community should make themselves aware of what resources are available to them, so that they can be better prepared."

In the event of an emergency situation, the University community would be alerted through PSUTXT, which sends emergency notifications via text messaging and email. Those text messages also go to a Twitter feed, which can be followed at online. Depending on the situation, information also would be posted to the University's news website at and the main home page at online.

Shelow noted that Penn State police are highly trained, and that all police officers on the University Park campus have a bachelor’s degree or equivalent. In addition, they have completed a training course required of all municipal police officers in Pennsylvania. Some officers also receive 90 to 100 hours of in-service training each year and specialize in myriad areas including crime prevention, fingerprint technology, evidence technology, hazardous device technology, emergency first aid, CPR/AED, weapons and tactics. The University Park Police and Public Safety Office also is home to the Penn State Hazmat team that serves all of Centre County, and to Wynne and Rudie, the University's two explosives detection canines.

"We also work very closely with neighboring police departments in State College Borough and the surrounding townships, as well as with the Pennsylvania State Police," said Tyrone Parham, chief of police at University Park.

Parham said that University Police participate in an Intermunicipal Mutual Aid Agreement that authorizes police officers and supervisors of the participating agencies to request assistance for incidents based upon a reasonable belief that such aid will enhance safety for both the public and the officers. They also participate in joint training exercises and collaborate on pre-planned, large-scale events.

"Those things are important, because it means we all know one another and have worked together in non-emergency situations, which will make it easier to collaborate if there is an emergency," Parham said.

Information about police resources at other campuses can be found at online.

In addition to police preparedness, the University works to educate students, faculty and staff about how to react in an emergency.

"One key component is the importance of alerting authorities of suspicious activity. If you see something, say something," Parham said. If there is an emergency situation, people should call 9-1-1. To reach University Park police to report suspicious activity in a non-emergency situation, call 814-863-1111.

This past summer, Penn State Public Media, in conjunction with University Police and Public Safety, filmed a new training video. The video will be shown to students, faculty and staff, providing the most up-to-date tactics for surviving an incident involving an individual on campus who is armed and dangerous.

“A video like this is crucial for making our campus safer,” Shelow said when the video was being filmed. “It raises awareness for our faculty, staff and students as well as presents pre-plan options in case of an active shooter."

The video, to be released in the coming months, promotes additional lessons learned from law enforcement in the wake of shootings that occurred since the release in 2010 of Penn State’s inaugural "active shooter" safety video. The 2010 video was one of only a handful in the nation created by universities to alert their communities to potential dangers and potential survival tactics.

"While universities are some of the safest places in the nation statistically for this type of violence, we felt it was important to share our knowledge on the topic with those we are here to protect and serve," said Shelow. "Being prepared in an emergency really is key to staying out of harm's way."

The new message is delivered through the acronym SAFE, which identifies the steps -- in order -- to follow during a shooting:

-- Search for a safe place.
-- Alert the authorities.
-- Find a place to hide.
-- End the threat.

Additional information about the video can be found at online.

Other resources for emergencies on or near campus include:

-- The University's comprehensive emergency management plan, found at

-- The Penn State Police website at, which contains links to information about campus safety, community education, policies and regulations, Clery Act statistics, alerts and timely warnings and other topics.

-- The Penn State Emergency Management website at, which contains numerous links to information on weather, preparedness and publications.

Last Updated January 23, 2014