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Playing It SAFE: Long Branch And Lincroft Evacuated After Scare

April 10, 2012 by admin

By Navid Faryar

     The Long Branch and Lincroft campuses were evacuated during the late afternoon hours of Friday, March 23, in what was called a “public safety exercise.”
     Just over 24 hours earlier, two students were having a frightening conversation on school property, essentially comparing Brookdale to a battleground similar to those in a violent video game they like to play.  The students made alarming references to their knowledge of the Long Branch campus’s security protocols.
     In simpler terms: they claimed to know the best times to attack.  The information they had in hand didn’t seem to satisfy them either because when their attention turned to the Lincroft campus, they asked questions, the same kinds of questions people ask in order to learn how to penetrate a safe environment.
     “Talking about something like that is horrifying to begin with, but when simple ideas begin to take shape with knowledge of security personnel whereabouts and the wanting of more detailed comprehension of a campus’s layout, it becomes quite clear that we have an issue on our hands,” said Brookdale  President Dr. William Toms who played an instrumental role in the evacuations. 
     The suspects’ conversation was shared with two contracted, non-Brookdale employees who later became the ones who reported the crime to the Brookdale police.  Based on the detailed description they received from the contractors, police were able to apprehend both suspects, charging one with a third-degree count of inciting false public alarm.  No weapons were found during any searches, and both students have since been suspended.
     Once the information had reached Toms, he took immediate action to coincide with the actions of police officials who first recieved the information. The information pointed to the Long Branch campus as being the more likely potential target and thus was evacuated first.
     “We weren’t going to take any chances.  We informed the proper authorities immediately and got everyone out of there.  Every inch of both campuses was searched with the assistance of trained police canines.  Lincroft’s campus was lightly populated because it was a sunny Friday afternoon and that meant we would be able to accomplish our objective quietly and effectively and did so immediately afterward,” Toms said.
     A forum discussion was held in the arena on the Lincroft campus one week later to give faculty, students, and parents alike, the opportunity to have their questions and concerns dealt with.  Toms calmly informed attendees of the events that had taken place the previous Friday.  Most questions were aimed at Brookdale’s safety protocols and ability to communicate grave issues to the students and faculty in a timely manner.
     “Wait, we had a gun scare?  I love how Brookdale keeps us in the loop!” was the response of Brookdale student/actor Cody Goold when he was told this story would be running instead of a profile on his theatrical prowess.
     A mass e-mail was, in fact, sent to all students and faculty, but many students do not check their Brookdale e-mail every day.
     “The college has a set of emergency guidelines that are available to students and faculty.  These guidelines have never been set in stone because it gives us the opportunity to make changes as we continue to learn more about handling these situations.  There are close to 15,000 students here and not everyone is going to be proactive and enroll in the RAVE system we have installed, which allows instant communication through text message,” Toms said.
     Toms is no stranger to safety protocol and its importance.  He served as a New Jersey State Trooper for close to 26 years; ensuring the safety of others has essentially been his life’s work.
     “It’s easy to feel obligated as an individual to preserve ourselves and the safety of our loved ones before all, but it is the responsibility of our school’s relevant governing bodies to ensure the safety of the campus as a whole above all, and we are going to continue doing that and we will be doing our best to be making all of the necessary adjustments along the way,” Toms said.
     The students will eventually go before the conduct board and a decision will be handed down with regard to the allegations against them.  The student charged with third degree incitation of false public alarm will also face a judge in court.

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