Improvements to public safety continue after lockdown drill

by | Oct 1, 2019 | News

Ryan Michael Wanzala, Biz/Tech Reporter

Improvements to Humber’s public alert system are being explored by the Department of Public Safety after a string of lockdown drills at the Toronto and Orangeville campuses last Tuesday.

Digital signage, aural announcements and Humber’s in-house SMS messaging system “Humber Alert” were put to the test, said Manager of Emergency Management Kathy Branton.

The North campus’ morning drill experienced a brief hiccup when the digital signs and the SMS alerts failed to deploy, but Branton said the systems worked as intended during the subsequent evening drill, and in the Lakeshore and Orangeville campuses’ drills later in the week.

“I think for the size of each campus and the amount of people there, they all went very well,” she said. “Could we have higher levels of participation in our larger campuses? Yes, but that’s going to be the same across the board at any institution, when you go up to 50,000 people there.”

Security officials from GardaWorld security and Toronto Police were dispatched across the campuses to lockdown procedures were followed by students and faculty.

Branton, who worked in the emergency management field for about 15 years, will mark her second year at Humber’s Department of Public Safety in December and has already suggested changes to enhance Humber’s public safety measures, starting with how alerts are interpreted to students and faculty members.

She said this year’s drill included telling people that the drill was going to play the actual lockdown message.

Manager of Emergency Management Kathy Branton simulates a press of an emergency button outside the Humber North Campus on Monday, Sept.16, 2019. (Ryan Wanzala)

“In previous years, we have played a test message that said, ‘this is a test’, but it doesn’t give people the chance to hear what the actual message is,” Branton said. “We want to give people that opportunity, so they know when they hear it.”

Humber faced criticism in the past by Toronto Police officials and Public Safety directors over the misunderstanding of certain lockdown procedure guidelines. Some students were reportedly found hiding under tables in an open space in 2015, and some students alleged they weren’t told of an impending test in 2016.

“In the new year, we are going to be rolling out a very robust training program for lockdown and active threat in terms of what people are supposed to do, what we’re going to do, what the police is going to do,” Branton said.

“The idea is that we’ll roll it out in early 2020 and will go throughout the year, so that when next September rolls around and we do our next drill, that the community will be better informed,” she said.

Along with feedback from the Humber community, security officials and local authorities also agreed to offer feedback regarding the latest drills.

“[The officials] are going to be here to observe, and they will be here to provide feedback. They will also provide information and guidance to anybody who is not doing what they should do,” she said.