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Security at MU: early warning and police cooperation in prevention

Masaryk University has established an emergency communication and management system and is now working on increasing security. These issues are being addressed by the MU management and the Rector’s Board, whose members include deans as the highest representatives of individual faculties.

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“I want to assure everyone that we are taking the situation very seriously and approaching it with a sense of great responsibility. At the same time, however, we are looking for rational solutions that will not unduly disrupt the day-to-day running and operations of our university, whose historic mission is and has always been, above all, to provide an open and free space for free people,” said MU Rector Martin Bareš.

Masaryk University is working hard on security in response to the tragedy at the Faculty of Arts of Charles University in Prague. The Security Emergency Board of the Masaryk University was activated, and Rector Martin Bareš attended a meeting at the Ministry of Education with Minister Mikuláš Bek and other representatives of higher education institutions in Prague. At the end of 2023, the rectors of universities based in Brno also met with representatives of the Police of the Czech Republic. All these meetings had one goal – to make the university spaces as safe and secure as possible.

“Of course, we will continue to coordinate our next steps with other Czech universities and with members of the Czech Rectors’ Conference,” added Martin Bareš.

Generally speaking, the emergency management system at MU relies on two bodies – the MU Security Emergency Board (Bezpečnostní a krizový výbor) and the Emergency Committee (Krizový štáb). The Emergency Committee is a broader body and serves to address complex and systemic issues, while the Security Emergency Board is smaller and can thus quickly respond to matters of urgency.

Walk-through metal detectors are not an option for the university. “The kind of security arrangements that involve permanent walk-through metal detectors and body searches can only be effectively implemented in buildings with a strictly limited number of entrances, such as a high-rise building with a small footprint, or in buildings with a secure outer perimeter. Our buildings, where many people are constantly going in and out through a large number of entrances, cannot be secured in this way. And even if we placed such detectors at each of the hundreds of entrances to our buildings and posted two armed guards at each point – which is the bare minimum needed to stop a single determined gunman – it would not protect the people standing in line at the entrance and elsewhere, not to mention the fact that even an armed guard may not be able to effectively stop a shooter if caught by surprised on a normal day,” explained Radim Polčák, Vice-rector for Development, Legal & Information Technologies. Experience from public institutions abroad clearly shows that measures to increase resilience are the best way to go, as they can limit the scale and impact of an attack and increase the effectiveness of law enforcement.

The Regional Police Directorate of the South Moravian Region believes that the main focus of cooperation with universities should be a good knowledge of the campus layout and training of staff, who should know how to react in an emergency. “As police officers, it is important for us to be able to orientate ourselves quickly in unfamiliar buildings and university complexes. This is where the ‘building intervention cards’ that the universities send us can help. They will allow us to speed up our operations and eliminate risks in emergency situations. We also recommend making sure that classrooms and lecture halls can be locked from the inside, because our experience is that if the perpetrator can’t get in, he will go elsewhere,” said Brigadier General Leoš Tržil, head of the South Moravian Regional Police Directorate.

“At the moment, we are focusing on finalising the early warning system to detect a threat, preparing training for security and technical staff in cooperation with the Police, and developing recommendations for our students and staff on how to behave in an emergency. We also attach great importance to the issue of cyber-security,” says MU Bursar Marta Valešová. The emergency plan also includes entering emergency contacts into the Information System (IS), which in practice means that students will be able to add their emergency contact to the IS themselves. Such a person would receive a text message warning in case of danger. Some of the new measures are due to be introduced in mid-February, at the start of the next semester.

Masaryk University also puts an emphasis on the availability of psychological counselling. This has a history at Masaryk University, and the experience with the Covid-19, the war in Ukraine and the Hamas attacks on Israel, as well as the recent shooting in Prague, clearly show that this service is useful and should remain available at the university. That is why MU is trying to improve it as much as possible, including offering counselling in foreign languages.