Auraria Campus emergency preparedness

Photo: Chris Caldwell

Photo: Chris Caldwell 


Auraria Higher Education Center (AHEC) aims to ensure that students, staff, and faculty on campus feel safe and prepared in the case of an emergency. In the heart of Denver, dangerous situations can arise out of nowhere; some of which might require a campus lockdown. In those situations, it’s important to know how to respond in order to keep oneself and others safe.

In the event of a lockdown emergency, all one has to do in the police department is “Hit some big buttons on the wall,” Michael Phibbs, Chief of Police for the Auraria Police Department, said. “They automatically lock the doors and send out an initial notification saying that we’re on lockdown, and to shelter in place and wait for more information.”

This notification tells the campus to “start being prepared to take some action, be responsible for yourself, and heighten your awareness,” Phibbs said.

When the notification goes out, people should survey their environment and prepare to act, if necessary. “At that time the students, faculty, and staff that are on the campus may actually have more information than we have,” Eric Leath, AHEC Emergency Preparedness Manager, said. “Sometimes we rely on them to kind of make their best judgement in accordance to what is going on in their area.”

Once more is known about the situation, specific actions can be taken. In the case of a dangerous individual, like an active shooter, one of the smartest courses of action is to hide. “It seems silly, but even a simple hiding spot can save you,” Phibbs said. “Because most active shooters are looking for big numbers and rarely target a specific person, a simple hiding place can make a big difference.”

If one happens to be outside, it’s important to pay close attention to their surroundings and make decisions accordingly. “Start paying attention to where you hear noises, if you smell smoke, where you see other people moving away from, and take all that in when you  make a decision,” Phibbs said. “If other people are already moving quickly away from an area, you might take their lead.”

It is also important to know what not to do. One crucial rule is to not open a locked door for anyone outside it during a lockdown. “If the door is locked, you don’t know what or who the threat is,” Leath said. “Once you open the door, you’ve endangered everyone in that lockdown space.”

People should also know how to contact the Auraria Police Department. “If you call our phone number from your cell phone directly, you get the quickest response,” Phibbs said. A 911 call will go to the Denver Police Department, and time is lost routing the call back to Auraria Police.

There is also a text-a-tip service that allows live-texting with Auraria dispatchers. It’s an easy way to discreetly send messages during an emergency. “It’s also a great tool because you can take a picture of someone and send it by text,” Leath said.

To learn more about what to do in the event of a lockdown or other emergency, there are multiple free programs available on campus to all Auraria students, staff, and faculty, such as the Spotlight on Preparedness outreach program.

Tessa Blair
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