President Obama's Homeland Security chief toured Drexel University on Tuesday and announced the Philadelphia school is one of seven U.S. colleges that will participate in a federal pilot program to improve emergency preparedness on campus.
"A crisis can happen on campus without notice," said Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano. "Drexel has been a true leader when it comes to campus safety."
Napolitano noted that Drexel was ranked third among higher-education institutions that promote campus security according to the 2012 Security 500 report prepared by SecurityMagazine.com that surveyed more than 20 campuses. The University of Pennsylvania Division of Public Safety ranked No. 1 in the survey.
Napolitano said Drexel's selection for the Campus Resilience Pilot Program would allow Drexel to receive guidance from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on how to mitigate natural disasters or man-made disasters such as mass shootings. In turn, Drexel will implement the guidance to further improve its security systems and then educate other universities across the country on "best practices" for campus safety, Napolitano said.
The pilot program will also provide Drexel with guidance from the Departments of Justice and Education, according to Napolitano. She said the technical assistance would help Drexel strengthen its emergency management plans.
The security partnership with the universities is consistent with Obama's plan to reduce gun violence in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn., Napolitano said. She gave few details on how the partnership will work. In terms of how much it will cost, Napolitano didn't have a figure but said the program will be funded through "existing resources."
Domenic Ceccanecchio, Drexel's vice president of public safety, said the university already works with the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service on security issues. He said the university engages in major security exercises every year to help the staff learn how to best respond in the event of a disaster.
Drexel applied in February for the chance to take part in the DHS pilot program, according to Ceccanecchio.