- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 2, 2008

RICHMOND (AP) — Legislation requiring colleges and universities to develop emergency-management plans was unanimously endorsed yesterday by a House of Delegates committee.

The Militia, Police and Public Safety Committee sent the measure to the floor for a final vote next week. The measure was prompted by the April 16 Virginia Tech shootings, in which a deranged student killed 32 persons and injured dozens before fatally shooting himself.

The legislation mirrors the recommendations of a panel that investigated the shootings and found several flaws in Tech’s emergency plan.

The bill would require universities to update their emergency plan every four years, establish a threat-assessment team, and create a system to notify students and employees of emergencies by e-mail, phone, text messages or other means.

Four delegates introduced bills doing essentially the same thing. They were combined into a single piece of legislation sponsored by Delegate Anne Crockett-Stark, Wythe Republican.

Tech gunman Seung-hui Cho shot his first two victims in a dormitory just after 7 a.m., but university officials did not send an e-mail alert until more than two hours later — just before Cho killed 30 others in a classroom building across campus.

Delegate Clifford L. Athey Jr., Warren Republican, also noted that campus was not locked down after the first shootings and wondered “to what extent does this bill deal with the potential for that particular problem?”

Delegate Dave Nutter, Montgomery Republican who works at Virginia Tech, said there is no one-size-fits-all answer to when campuses should be locked down because they vary so much in size and other characteristics. The bill allows flexibility on that issue, he said.

The panel appointed by Gov. Tim Kaine to investigate the Tech shootings found that the university’s emergency plan was outdated, that the school did not have a threat-assessment team in place so information could be shared across various disciplines, and the protocol for alerting the campus of an emergency was cumbersome when time was critical.

The threat-assessment team that would be required by Mrs. Crockett-Stark’s bill would include representatives of law enforcement, the mental health profession, student affairs and human resources and, if available, the university’s attorney.

The team would work with law-enforcement and mental health agencies to “expedite assessment and intervention with individuals whose behavior may present a threat to safety.”

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