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Central Washington University

Governor Proposes Funding for CWU Campus Security Enhancements

Monday, December 23, 2019

CWU MedallionGovernor Jay Inslee has proposed to invest $3.28 million to enhance security at CWU’s residential campus in Ellensburg.

The 2020 supplemental budget proposal would pay for a video security system, the upgrade of the blue light emergency phone network, and the installation of electronic locking systems on campus buildings.

The governor’s proposal calls for approximately $1.8 million to install new electronic locking systems on campus buildings, $622,000 for a campus-wide video security system, and $820,000 to upgrade the outdoor emergency blue light system, which are placed strategically around campus.

The security needs were identified in the wake of a “ghost shooter” event in February 2019. False reports of gunshots and shooters in buildings on the Ellensburg campus spread rapidly through social media and text messaging. First responders lacked video monitoring systems to verify the information and had no way to lock down automatically the 94 facilities across CWU’s 380 acre campus.  

“That experience revealed the urgent need to modernize facilities and systems that help keep people safe in the event of a real emergency,” said Andreas Bohman, CWU’s Vice President of Operations, noting that university properties range in age from 1 to 126 years in age. “We’re responsible for keeping thousands of students, employees, and guests safe across 3.2 million square feet of space and this funding will help us do that.”

Bohman said only the newest facilities have key card access that records who accesses the building on any given date. If someone loses a key card, cards can be easily replaced and reset. Emergency response staff have rapid access to buildings with key cards and don’t have to physically go to a location to lock down a building.

The governor’s supplemental budget proposal also would fund a video security system, which now operate only in the Student Union Recreation Center (SURC). The system would provide an additional layer of security at remote areas and those that are hard to patrol (e.g. due to location or vegetation). The new system could also be used to monitor hazardous material storage and utility infrastructure.

“Had these cameras been in place during CWU’s ghost event, police would have been able to instantaneously check activity around buildings of concern,” said CWU Police Chief Jason Berthon-Koch. “As it was, we had to go to each building, instead of checking cameras on a laptop.”

The CWU budget request includes upgrading 28 emergency blue-light phones, which would enable the stations to support an audio mass notification system. 

Since the February event, CWU has self-funded the expansion of public safety and preparedness systems and culture at all campus locations, including but not limited to the following activities and investments:

  • Incident Command System Training for staff
  • Executive policy group tabletop exercises
  • Department-specific tabletop exercises 
  • New building coordinator program
  • New chemical inventory-management system
  • Adding emergency management staff to the Environmental Health & Safety Council
  • Expanding online emergency and disaster preparedness for staff and faculty
  • Increasing involvement with the local community emergency planning committee
  • FEMA Integrated Emergency Management commuinty training

The supplemental budget session, which will begin on January 13, 2020, is intended to address emergencies as well as errors and omissions in the biennial budget, approved last spring. Legislators will meet for 60 days to review the governor’s proposals and submit their own versions of the budgets.

Media contact: Richard Moreno, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-2714, Richard.Moreno@cwu.edu.

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