In a webinar, Dr. Bob Harkins, Associate Vice President for Campus Safety & Security for the University of Texas at Austin, spoke about his structure/programs, plans & planning, communications and his team’s responsibilities.


Dr. Harkins said that he is a firm believer in strategic planning, as it provides the basis for everything he does. In the school’s office of campus safety and security, a structure is in place with goals that include:

  • Continue to develop, gain approval, and implement safety and  security programs that ensure the welfare of the university community.
  • Continue to develop, implement, and sustain effective campus safety and security communications. 
  • Promote best management practices in Campus Safety and Security operations. 
  • Foster high quality services, campus diversity, and leadership that supports Campus Safety and Security operations.  
  • Promote safety and security educational programs throughout the campus community

A Campus Safety and Security Committee assists his team, that includes

  • Deputy to the President
  • Provost Office
  • VP University Operations
  • VP Research
  • AVP Campus Safety and Security
  • AVP Facilities Services
  • AVP Human Resources and more

Dr. Harkins said that it’s important to have a team that encompasses all members of campus, so that when a crisis does occur, people can be quickly pulled together to solve the problem.

A Core Crisis Management Team (CCMT) includes:

  • Deputy to the President
  • Exec Asst to the President
  • Director of University Media Relations
  • Executive VP and Provost
  • VP for University Operations
  • VP for Student Affairs
  • VP for Legal Affairs
  • Chief Financial Officer

“How do you get that team to function? Someone needs to understand the process of executive decisions, and execute control. You need to be the ‘herder’ of the group to react and manage the crisis,” he said.

A Campus Assessment Teams is in place to determine reactions and actions and conduct investigations and develop an action plan. A Critical Incident Response Team (CIRT) is in place to react to events, as a response team and assessment team to plan a course of action for senior leadership.

A Behavior Assessment Team (BAT) comes together when a student is involved. A Threat Assessment Team (TAT) is for dealing with problems with staff and faculty, to pull together the issues and lay out an action plan.

“When we looked at Virginia Tech the biggest thing that struck us was that there were people to  who suspected the shooter but did not know where to go with that information. So we set up a a Behavior Concerns Advice Line that can also be accessed by email for people to report concerns.  We have 700 calls a year on this line,” he said.

Overall, Dr. Harkins recommends having an “exit strategy,” which he says can be applicable for work, home and at play. As only 7,500 of the university’s 53,000 students live on campus, a Live Safe program helps students with physical security, fire safety, vacation tips, and apartment-hunting check lists.

Plans & Planning

Dr. Harkins explained his department’s nine categories of safety and security planning, which encompasses:

  • Levels of Emergencies / Response / Readiness Conditions
  • Establishes Command, Control, and Communication
  • Based on The National Incident Management System (NIMS)
  • Includes Incident Command, Interagency Cooperation, and Public Information
  • Contains concepts, policies and procedures which apply regardless of the nature of the emergency
  • All hazards, flexible management system

The Emergency Plan does not replace departments’ responsibilities to develop their own emergency plans


Dr. Harkins called this “the hard part.” He and his team use a Dispatching Alert System Rapid Response, which includes

  • Pagers
  • Text Messaging
  • Email
  • Social Media
  • Web Sites
  • Siren/Outdoor Warning System
  • Emergency Communications System
  • Computer Pop-ups/AtHoc
  • Campus TV
  • Local Media

The department’s web site has a number of documents and information available, at

You can view this webinar on demand here