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The Most Overlooked Security Tip: Learn How to Listen

Kathy Mulray, the director of Community College of Philadelphia's Northeast Regional Center, recently organized a seminar where students and public safety experts could talk, as well as listen, to each other.

The event comes in the wake of the Feb. 14th mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and news reports that students and staff at the school felt their security concerns often had been ignored.

"We want to catch the problems before they happen," Randolph Merced, College director of Public Safety said, speaking to the crowd of about 100 people gathered at the Northeast Regional Center on April 3.

Panelist Detective Joseph P. Rovnan, from the Philadelphia Police Department's counter terrorism operations unit, also emphasized the important role played by ordinary members of the public.
"You are a critical part of the security of this institution," he said, so it's important to "trust your suspicions," report them. Also, he said, take time to learn the layout of classroom buildings, so in the event of a problem, people are better prepared to "run, hide and fight," in that order.

Besides Rovnan, panelists included Philadelphia police department officials Lt. Brian Gress, from counter terrorism operations, and Sgt. John Venit, a tactical specialist from the City's eighth police district. Richard Turzanski, a former student at the College, and an inspector from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, served as moderator while his supervisor, John J. Guest, regional director of the Protective Security Coordination Division, sat in the audience.

Topics ranged from mass shootings and techniques for staying safe to police shootings and community relations.

"As a cop, the hardest part of the job is relating to the community and not being seen as an adversary," Gress said. Even when insulted, officers must remain professional, he added.

It was a message heeded by Ronnie Diez, 21, of North Philadelphia, studying criminal justice. "You have to let it go," said Diez, who plans to join the Pennsylvania State Academy in July.

Farah Humeidi, 19, of Northeast Philadelphia, a criminal justice student who aims to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said the talk motivated her, particularly the emphasis on relating to the community.

According to Merced, public safety is a top priority at Community College of Philadelphia where upgrades have been in made to public safety’s technology infrastructure and security protocols and procedures have been updated. Specifically, he cited the upgrades and improvements in the closed-circuit television video surveillance system, tightened security at all access points, investments in training and greatly enhanced message alert systems.

The College community can bolster these efforts by following the practices and procedures already in place.

  • Wear your Community College of Philadelphia college ID at all times.
  • Use emergency exits only during emergencies as they might provide access to unwanted guests or visitors.
  • Attend workshops on a regular basis to learn about the new alert systems and security protocols.
  • Take personal security precautions and be observant at all times.