As a leader in active threat preparedness and response, Merrimack College works closely with local and state law enforcement to stay up-to-date on policies, procedures and best practices.
An outcome of this work is Merrimack’s status as a go-to site for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and the Municipal Police Training Committee’s “Train The Trainer” exercises, which the College once again hosted the week of March 6 in Sullivan Hall.
“The need for a pre-planned, integrated response across all first responder disciplines has perhaps never been more important than today,” said Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety and Security Terrence Reidy. “Our experience in Massachusetts has shown that a unified approach and coordinated response saves lives and strengthens community resiliency. We are grateful to our partners at Merrimack College for hosting this important practice exercise.”
About 50 law enforcement representatives from across the Commonwealth came to campus to participate in active threat training including response tactics and engaging suspects. The goal of the exercise was for the participants to take what they learned and share it with their own departments, including the Merrimack College Police Department (MCPD), which had participants in the training.
“The safety of our students, faculty, staff and campus visitors is of the utmost importance,” said Merrimack College President Christopher E. Hopey, Ph.D. “Our institution maintains extensive, long-standing and rigorous policies that not only keep our community safe day-to-day, but also in the event of an active threat or emergency situation. The ethos of a college campus is scholarship, opportunity, betterment of oneself and building of relationships, and it is the responsibility of us all to ensure that it is protected and flourishes.”
From training to equipment to procedures, the MCPD and its officers are held to the same standards as any Massachusetts municipal department, as well as local and state officers, explains Merrimack College Police Chief Michael DelGreco. But he takes great pride in a differentiating factor for the campus police department.
“We take a more hands-on, holistic approach in our work and interactions with the entire Merrimack community,” explained DelGreco, who has worked at Merrimack for more than 20 years. “We believe ourselves to be part of the education experience here as well. And to make sure our entire community gets a great experience that is safe.”
As mentioned in a campus message from President Hopey on Feb. 15, the MCPD oversees an expansive campus safety operation that protects the more than 6,000 people who live, learn and work at Merrimack, along with the thousands more who visit campus throughout the year.
Safety measures in place across campus include security gates at the Elm Street and Rte. 125 entrances where all vehicles must check in; 38 blue light emergency call boxes that provide direct, two-way communications with the MCPD on a 24/7 basis; and more than 200 security cameras. The College utilizes the Rave Alert system to send emergency notifications via phone call, text message and email to the campus community. The Rave Guardian app is also available to the Merrimack community and features emergency call functions, confidential reporting and safety time where users can share their locations with friends or colleagues.
“We hear from so many parents how grateful they are and appreciative they are for what we do,” noted Deputy Chief Elaine Gill. “When we tell them how extensive our guest policy is and all the specialized services we provide to the campus, you can sense their ease of mind.”
In the aftermath of the horrific shooting at Michigan State University on Feb. 13, President Hopey informed the entire Merrimack community there will be additional tests and updates to the College’s emergency preparedness response.
“Fostering a safe community here at Merrimack is not something we are reactive to; it is always in the back of our minds as we proactively seek to improve our department,” DelGreco said. “We are constantly looking at policies, procedures, technologies and ways in which we can do our jobs more effectively and build trust in the campus community.”