Safety measures abound at Fort Hays State

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By Diane Gasper-O'Brien

University Relations and Marketing

HAYS, Kan. – Safety for its students and the campus community is a top priority for Fort Hays State University, and students and staff alike help in keeping it that way. Those measures have drawn the attention of others as FHSU has been ranked as one of the safest colleges in America by the National Council for Home Safety and Security.

Fort Hays State, No. 42 on the council's top 100 list, is in the midst of a multiple-phase exterior lighting project on campus, one that is tested by a group from several campus entities that conducts a safety walk each school year. The safety walk is sponsored by FHSU’s Student Government Association.

The National Council for Home Safety and Security is a trade association comprised of home security professionals across the United States. The council advocates for safe communities and home safety with a strong focus on community involvement.

“The ranking confirms the fact that all of us at Fort Hays State have a deep care and concern about the well-being of our students and their future success,” said Dr. Joey Linn, vice president for student affairs.

Another student-driven initiative at Fort Hays State is a mobile communications safety application called LiveSafe that was launched in 2016. The app, which is free, can be downloaded to a mobile device from the App Store or Google Play.

Users can select several options from the app, including requests for emergency assistance through quick, easy access to emergency phone numbers. The app also includes a safety map, which tells people their location in relation to campus buildings. A “GoSafe”  feature also provides phone numbers to call Safe Ride or local taxi services.

Linn thinks having students involved in planning safety features gives them some ownership and pride in their campus.

The campus lighting project features replacing all exterior lighting, ranging from street and building lights to pedestrian and parking lot lights.

Dana Cunningham, director of facilities planning at FHSU, said the goal is to provide a consistent look both in terms of light quality as well as light fixtures.

Cunningham, who called the project “three-fold,” explained that having better quality lighting that distributes light better is safer and gives the campus a more consistent look. It’s also a cost-saving measure.

“A lot of campuses are converting over to LED lighting, because it saves money; we have conserved about 30 percent of the power we used to use for lighting,” he said. “Plus, the distribution of the lighting makes the areas safer.”

The SGA executive committee and a few SGA senators accompany Cunningham, University Police Chief Ed Howell, and SGA advisors Linn and Dr. Teresa Clounch, an assistant vice president for student affairs, on the safety walk around campus. Last semester, Mike Barnett, vice president of administration and finance, also participated.

“We walk around to see if there are any areas of concern,” Linn said. “We just do a safety check and ask questions. That’s been a really good thing.”

Beloit senior Emily Brandt is in her second year of serving as SGA president. She has been a member of SGA all four years at Fort Hays State and has participated in the walk every year.

“I think the walk is really cool because we can point out anything we see that needs attention, and our administrative assistant takes notes,” said Brandt, a political science major.

“Then we send that list to the president’s office and to the department that would take care of any necessary issues.”

Brandt said the lighting improvements have made a noticeable difference from year to year.

“The new lights definitely brighten up some dimmer areas,” she said, “especially in the parking lots outside the Memorial Union and Gross Memorial Coliseum because they both have so many entrances and exits.”

Other safety practices are self-defense classes that Fort Hays State offers each semester and a self-defense club.

FHSU's Defensive Tactics Club – made up of approximately 20 students and coordinated by Kenton Russell, FHSU instructor of mixed martial arts – conducts about 20 self-defense seminars a year for Hays and other communities around the state. The next seminar, open and free to the public, is set for Saturday, March 10, from 9 a.m. to noon, in the FHSU wrestling room in Cunningham Hall. For more information, contact Hollie Marquess at (785) 628-5869 or Amy Gildemeister at (785) 821-0225.

“Our faculty, staff and students look out for one another,” Linn said, “and we are all proud of the supportive environment we have created on our campus.”

Next up for safety improvements is adding electronic access to more campus buildings.

The three newest residence halls feature electronic access, as does the recently completed Center for Applied Technology. The addition of that feature to other buildings is an ongoing process. Custer Hall and McMindes Hall, two of the older residence halls, also have electronic access in certain portions of the buildings.

“We are bidding right now for a summer project to add electronic access to Gross Memorial Coliseum,” Cunningham said, “and we will continue to migrate that project through the campus as funding allows.”

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