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SOU, RCC plan to consider new safety procedures

Southern Oregon University and Rogue Community College have no specific emergency procedures to respond to a shooting rampage like the one Monday in which 33 people were killed at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

Officials from both institutions said they would discuss whether to consider such procedures at future safety committee meetings.

"We would be remiss if we didn't recognize these events occur, and there are things we should prepare for," said Steve Ross, co-director of SOU public safety. "The problem with shootings is they are a random act. It's not like the weather service sees a hurricane, and you know what to expect."

RCC is in the process of revising its emergency procedures to ensure they comply with requirements.

The college's safety committee faces the challenge of planning for three different types of campuses: urban in Medford, industrial in White City and rural in Grants Pass.

"The emergency procedures don't include a shooting, but I imagine they will soon, given the magnitude of the events (Monday)," said Bart Van Syoc, RCC director of facilities and operations.

SOU recently updated its emergency procedure pamphlets, including evacuation plans, but topics deal with the most likely catastrophes such as a hazardous waste spill, fire, earthquake or bomb threat.

"Campus shootings happen very infrequently, so whether we want to include them as a topic or as a part of our general emergency practice, I'm not sure," Ross said.

University officials are in discussions with student government to see if it would be possible to institute a campuswide notification system via cell-phone text messages.

The university already has the capability of communicating with staff and the student body through the phone and e-mail systems, but a cell phone system would enable them to communicate with staff and students in class or in between buildings.

"The downside is the system would require everyone to buy in and give out their cell-phone number," Ross said. "On a college campus, that's not always easy to do."

The number of students attending each campus is about 5,000 at SOU, 4,000 at RCC in Medford, 4,000 at RCC in Grants Pass and 1,500 at RCC in White City.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or pachen@mailtribune.com.