The following e-mail was sent to williams-students and williams-personnel today.

To the Williams Community,

As members of a college campus our hearts ache even more fully for the victims at Virginia Tech, their families and friends, and for all in Blacksburg and elsewhere who have been touched by this tragedy.

While our thoughts remain focused on the situation there, some people on our own campus have asked about how prepared Williams is for such emergencies, so let me give you a brief sense of that.

I’d say that we’re rather well prepared, though professionals in this line of work say that every emergency brings it’s own wrinkles, not all of which can be anticipated.

For more than ten years, we’ve had a written Emergency Response Plan, which has been developed, refined, and tested under the supervision of Director of Campus Safety and Security Jean Thorndike. It addresses how College personnel would respond to various emergencies, how decisions would be made, and how College operations would be coordinated with outside agencies.

Simulation exercises have been held in conjunction with police, firefighters, ambulance, and hazardous material response teams. Several years ago College personnel participated in a drill that simulated a live shooting incident at Williamstown Elementary School.

In the case of a shooting on campus, police would immediately take control of the situation. A SWAT team is based in Pittsfield. College personnel would assist police in ways that could include the evacuation of a building or part of campus, establishing a perimeter, providing floor plans, and locking and unlocking doors, much of which can be done by computer from the Campus Safety Office.

Mike Wynn ’93, head of the Pittsfield Police Department’s Special Response Team, has led incident command training for our safety personnel, which rehearses ways to identify resources appropriate to various levels of emergency. He knows our operations well, having worked in our Campus Safety Office as a student.

The college recently agreed to purchase the services of a company called Connect ED, which can send broadcast e-mails and/or phone calls to targeted groups. This includes calls to cell phones. We will have a number of target groups of various sizes from teams of emergency responders to all students, faculty, staff, parents, board members, and other alumni leaders.

We’ve established the principles of effective emergency response and continue to put in place appropriate resources and equipment. The key, however, is the creative adaptation of them in the face of a real emergency, with its individual challenges.

To bring our minds back to the present, however, we should continue to hold in our thoughts and prayers all those affected by yesterday’s tragedy. As Chaplain Rick Spalding pointed out in his message earlier today [see below], staff of the Dean’s Office, Chaplain’s Office, and Health Center are available for any students in need of someone with whom to talk.

M. Schapiro

As our hearts go out to the classmates, families and colleagues of the victims of the shootings yesterday at Virginia Tech, members of the Williams community are invited to light a candle, offer a prayer or pause for reflection in the sanctuary of Thompson Memorial Chapel.

At 2 p.m. today, many of us will pause to remember the students, faculty, family and friends who will be gathering in Blacksburg at that hour for a memorial convocation.

As always, the staff of the Dean’s Office, the Chaplains’ Office, and the Health Center are available for any students who may be needing support or someone to talk to.

Rick Spalding, Chaplain to the College

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