Campus safety is a growing concern as Ontario schools see more and more lockdowns due to safety threats to students and staff.
Under the Ontario Safe Schools Act students, parents or guardians, teachers, staff and community members are entitled to a safe and secure school environment. With this right comes the responsibility for everyone to be accountable for their actions and contribute to a positive school climate.
Durham College is taking measures to ensure campus safety by introducing initiatives such as programs like Code Blue Stations and Campus Walk.
Code Blue stations provide direct communication with Campus Security. They are installed in parking areas of the shared campus of Durham College and Ontario Tech University, as well as along footpaths and at the DC Whitby campus, according to the Office of Campus Safety 2021 brochure.
Tom Lynch, director of campus safety for Durham College and Ontario Tech says Code Blue stations play a “significant role” in addressing exterior safety concerns.
“If you [activate] a code blue on campus we know exactly where you are and if you say something that indicates you need more than just security like police or even an ambulance, we can call 911 on behalf of the individual hitting the code blue,” he says.
Lynch says there are 30 Code Blue stations that the OCS oversees, 24 on the Oshawa campus and six on the Whitby campus. They are located in parking lots, footpaths and there are some interior stations.
The Regent Theatre station for OnTech dials a call right to 911 when activated but the others send a call into the OCS, which is staffed 24/7, he says.
Lynch says security responds without exception whenever a Code Blue station is activated.
“We have a protocol for absolute response. Immediate and absolute response. We don’t consider there ever to be a false alarm for a code blue,” he says. “Even if someone pushes a Code Blue and says they are okay, we still go.”
From Jan. 1, 2022, to Oct. 31, 2022 the OCS responded to 11 Code Blue station calls. Lynch says majority of the calls were related to parking disputes or accidents. He does not recall responding to a call about a significant safety concern in those 11 calls.
“[I] haven’t had a code blue [incident] in my memory where someone was being chased and they thought their life was in dire consequences,” he says.
Lynch feels the campus is “extremely safe,” and the OCS meets every morning to go over occurrences that happened.
“You can’t become complacent just because historically we’re not responding to significant emergencies,” he says.
Michael Brideau, a DC alumni says he always felt safe during his time on campus.
“There was never a time where I felt unsafe, or unsure of what to do if something happened. Durham College does a good job in the aspect that many students know what to do or where to go if they need help,” he says.
Campus safety week was in January. Lynch says they “blitz” everything safety-related including the Code Blue stations. Students can also read about them on the DC website and the OCS personal safety brochure.
The stations also “self-advertise” according to Lynch.
“It’s a big red pole with a blue light on top that says emergency,” he says. “That combined with the ability to have campus walk or security walk, there is just so many pieces and if you are not feeling safe, we can offer you some support to get you where you are going.”