Survey: UCO students feel safe on campus, but know little about safety procedures
This article was written using survey results from the Safer Central project, a multimedia effort to inform students and others about public safety.
The Safer Central project is a collaboration produced by the Fall 2017 Professional Media Capstone class, part of the University of Central Oklahoma’s Mass Communication program. Discover more about Safer Central here.
In a year that’s seen several public tragedies — from mass shootings to concert bombings to devastating hurricanes — University of Central Oklahoma students seem unprepared for emergencies despite feeling safe on campus, a recently conducted survey suggests.
Data collected from more than 200 participants within the last month indicates students think the school is secure, but many are unfamiliar with UCO’s procedures for incidents such as active shooters or severe weather.
Of those who responded, 84 percent agreed the school is safe, but almost 60 percent reported they wouldn’t know what to do should a campus shooting occur. Nearly half said they were unaware of UCO’s plans for events like tornadoes.
The survey was organized by the Safer Central project, an effort by the Fall 2017 Professional Media Capstone class to inform UCO students and others about public safety. Earlier versions of the survey were tested on small groups before it was sent electronically campus-wide in late November.
Questions primarily focused on UCO emergency response guidelines, though some centered around emotional reactions participants experience in malls, movie theaters or other crowded settings as well.
‘It’s hard to think about’
“I do feel safe on campus, but it’s terrible and just awful to see all these tragedies going on,” said Jake Roberts, a student studying business marketing at UCO.
Roberts, whose mother is a minister, said it’s difficult not to think about the possibility of public tragedy following incidents like the Texas church massacre that left 26 people dead earlier this year. In today’s age, it’s important to be wary of your surroundings, he said.
“It’s hard to think about,” Roberts said. “But we should be a little bit more cautious about where we’re going, what we’re doing and who we’re hanging around.”
UCO’s safety guidelines are installed at more than 900 locations across campus, according to the university’s Emergency Response and Evacuation Procedures webpage. The red booklets typically are found at classroom entrances and feature color-coded tabs for situations ranging from fires to chemical spills.
Additionally, UCO provides timely warnings via text message, email and phone call for students enrolled in the Central Alert system. Almost all survey respondents said they receive these notifications, and more than half agreed UCO staff could respond appropriately during an emergency.
UCO has designated nine buildings around campus as “severe weather areas,” which can be found on the school’s public safety webpage. Other buildings are listed as safe spaces during storms barring certain conditions. Safer Central’s survey findings indicated most respondents were unacquainted with these specified shelters.
The survey also reveals students are split when asked questions involving emotional stress in public places.
A little more than 40 percent of respondents said they’d never experienced anxiety or worry when in settings like schools, malls, or theaters; 40 percent reported the opposite, while nearly 16 percent remained neutral. A little less than 60 percent said they strategize where to exit when in public in case of an emergency.
Comments and concerns
Students were invited to leave comments and suggestions at the end of the survey. Most did not leave additional remarks, but those who did wanted educators to take a more active role in emergency awareness.
” … I would like to see the professors go over emergency situations maybe once or twice per semester,” one respondent said. “Even though we consider everyone who attends college an adult, I think it might be good to refresh thought processes to register what to do in case of an emergency.”
“Emergency procedures for a shooting should include a reminder for everyone to silence their cell phones and make sure the screens do not illuminate in a manner that would draw attention. Or turn them off completely,” another said.
“UCO staff should have formalized annual training for how to respond to emergency situations, to include severe weather, fire, and active shooters,” added another.
“Even at the elementary education level, staff practiced procedures on a regular basis. Each staff member knew their assigned role in each emergency situation. I feel UCO should follow a similar guideline.”
Safer Central’s survey did not seek to understand whether or not people are reading safety procedures provided by UCO but rather general thoughts and morale regarding the safety of the campus.
The Fall 2017 Professional Media Capstone class reached its decision to research public safety through exploring various topics in pop culture and media. The goal of Safer Central’s survey was to discover students’ overall understanding of campus safety regulations.
In order to conduct research, Safer Central gained approval from the Institutional Review Board