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Bismarck college assesses security procedures following lockdown

BISMARCK -- In wake of the shooting threat that sent Bismarck State College into a lockdown last week, school officials are evaluating campus security.

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Wayne Johnson is the Bismarck State College campus safety and security manager. Johnson said last week's campus lockdown experience went smoothly and he served as a liaison between responding law enforcement agencies and BSC administration. (Tom Stromme/Bismarck Tribune)

BISMARCK -- In wake of the shooting threat that sent Bismarck State College into a lockdown last week, school officials are evaluating campus security.

They say some of the procedures in place before the lockdown worked well in action Thursday. Law enforcement arrived, BSC's crisis management team assembled, alerts went to students and employees implemented what they learned during emergency trainings.

"It was a perfect day because no one got hurt, and the perpetrator got caught," President Larry Skogen said.

But officials have already identified areas to improve.

For one, they now realize they need a plan for students with special needs such as diabetes, Skogen said. Thursday's lockdown took four hours, during which time those students couldn't necessarily access their medical supplies in another location on campus.

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"We need to think through that," Skogen said.

Without being told, staff stepped up and contacted the families of students with special needs to ensure they would be picked up promptly as buildings were cleared, Campus Safety and Security Manager Duane Johnson said.

BSC's crisis management team, which consists of 15 administrators and staff from a variety of departments, plans to debrief Friday. Johnson said they will discuss communication efforts, law enforcement's response and visitors on campus.

Other items warrant discussion too, including whether to prepare a meal post-crisis for students who reside on campus, he said. Plus, some staff and faculty in a different building from their offices needed a way to get their car keys so they could leave campus.

Meanwhile, law enforcement continue to investigate the incident, which started when the FBI got word that someone posted a tweet threatening to shoot up a school library. The FBI traced the phone used to make the tweet to the BSC campus.

A 16-year-old suspect was taken into custody that afternoon after he was stopped headed north on U.S. Highway 83. An FBI spokesperson on Tuesday declined to release the name of the suspect or provide additional details about the lockdown, citing the ongoing investigation.

As soon as Johnson learned of the threat Thursday morning from the FBI, he took the first steps to launch a response.

"I called the Bismarck Police Department and asked them to send several units up here, just in case," he said.

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Johnson has been at BSC only 1.5 years, but he has relationships with a number of local officers having worked for other law enforcement agencies for 15 years.

He said he knew the shift commander on duty with the Bismarck Police Department, who trusted that he was serious about the threat and dispatched officers right away.

Johnson also called the school's crisis management team together and sent BSC's other licensed police officer to the library, which was targeted in the tweet. He joined that officer soon after and served as a liasion between local law enforcement and the school through the lockdown.

The team sent alerts to students' phones and emails and posted updates on social media, attempting to squash false rumors that shots were fired.

After the all-clear was issued, Skogen sent an email to students outlining the day's events. He said he knew they had a terrible day and wanted to let them know what happened beyond the short alerts they received during the incident.

Over the past year, Johnson has gone building by building offering active shooter training to employees. Some also have received training in how to handle bomb threats, as well as first aid, CPR and automated external defibrillators.

The crisis management team met as recently as December to conduct a drill for a potential emergency.

"By the time we faced a real-world scenario, the team had sat around the table and made these decisions," Skogen said.

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Both he and Johnson said they felt better prepared for another emergency after handling Thursday's event.

"You couldn't have planned it any better for a learning tool," Johnson said.

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