President-elect Barack Obama used his message of change in his successful campaign for the Oval Office. Change is a way of life, especially in our rapidly changing modern world. Change not only occurs every four to eight years in the White House, it happens every day in our society. Our institutions of higher learning are constantly changing in many ways to meet the evolving needs of the students they serve.

This constantly changing environment clearly impacts safety, security, and emergency preparedness. At many institutions of higher learning, new buildings and major renovation construction projects occur every year. When I visit my alma mater today, I marvel at how dramatically the physical plant has evolved as the University has continually worked to grow and improve its services, academic programs, athletic — and, most significantly of all — the level of security of the campus. The University spared no expense in creating much improved access control by purchasing, often at top dollar, entire neighborhoods so the campus could be attractively fenced in and numerous roadways dug up and turned into grassy spaces. These efforts not only improved physical security in terms of criminals who had sometimes attacked students and broken into vehicles, but significant concerns relating to unsafe drivers endangering students as the students attempted to cross busy streets countless times every day.

While this massive improvement has not only made the university a safer place for students, staff, and visitors, it has also dramatically improved the appearance of the campus, as well as the ease of pedestrian navigation. In short, Mercer University is an even better school than it used to be due to this massive makeover. While certainly not a painless or inexpensive process, the massive investment in campus improvement at Mercer will reap huge dividends for staff, students, and the institution for many decades. At the same time, university police have had to adapt their service delivery to meet the changing physical place, programs, and services.

The steady evolution of our institutions of higher learning requires careful planning, an eye on likely future trends, and often, a high degree of creativity. It also requires constant environmental scanning to ensure campus safety officials are not left out of the processes of implementing changes that impact safety security and emergency preparedness.

About the Author

Michael S. Dorn has helped conduct security assessments for more than 6,000 K-12 schools, keynotes conferences internationally and has published 27 books including Staying Alive – How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters. He can be reached at