High-tech security at Housatonic Community College

By News Channel 8's Annie Rourke
Posted Aug. 30, 2007
11:00 PM

Bridgeport (WTNH)_ Colleges and universities across the country are beefing up security in the wake of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. Updating security at Housatonic Community College was a challenge because the school welcomes the public to roam the halls.

"We're an open campus and the reason is, we are a living museum and being a living museum, we invite the public to come in and visit and tour the building," said Sgt. Chris Gough, head of security.

Whether you're one of the 4,400 students going to class or a visitor admiring the $11 million art collection you are being watched. There are 60 cameras in the 180,000 square foot building and 40 additional cameras in the garage. Security guards patrol the floors every 20 minutes.
There are also blue emergency lights and panic buttons.

President Anita Gliniecki has made security the number one priority at the college, even hiring a consultant and practicing emergency exercises.

"We were thinking of a chemical spill on I-95 as an example," said Gliniecki.

That scenario is not so far-fetched. Three years ago, an oil tanker overturned and caught fire on I-95. Bridgeport was completely crippled by dangerous fumes and gridlocked traffic. The Housatonic Community College campus was totally compromised. The campus can now shut down the ventilator system in order to keep air quality safe inside.

The Virginia Tech tragedy highlighted other important aspects necessary for a complete security plan.

"We have excellent and always had an excellent plan for evacuation, we really had to think about how do we lockdown a building and how do we communicate to people," Gliniecki said.

The college installed an auto-dialer system, essentially a reverse 911. An emergency phone call goes out to all students, staff and faculty, along with a web site warning and a message to every classroom phone. The college also installed a new Code Red lock.

"By key, from the inside, you can turn, therefore locking the outside but keeping the inside open," Gough said.