Top Campus Safety Terms Everyone Should Know

Picture of Mary Kate McGrath By Mary Kate McGrath


college campusHundreds of incidents occur each year where campus safety officials have to get involved. While some might be trivial and others more serious, we've put together a list of the top campus safety terms everyone should know.

On April 30th, 2019, two students were killed and four others were wounded after a gunman opened fire on the University of North Carolina campus, as per the New York Times. The tragic shooting was the eighth major documented shooting on a college or university in 2019, raising new concerns about safety and security on campus.

Active assailants are not the only contemporary concern for students, faculty, and staff at major higher education institutions. Environmental risks have also posed unique challenges for rural and metropolitan instutions, and hate crimes, which includes instances of vandalism and prejudice-motivated violence, are also on the rise, according to FBI data. These situations demonstrate the need for a comprehensive security plan, and a familiarity with the top safety and security concerns for campus safety administrators is imperative. 

The safety and security issues higher education faces are more urgent than ever, whether it is preventing active assailants on campus, managing a severe weather emergency, or addressing a medical needs or mental health on campus.There are many reasons to invest in school safety in an era where students, faculty, and staff have growing worries. Each institution will need to develop security strategies to best address the unique concerns of their community. 

In order to decide which tools work best, school safety officials should understand the needs of students, teachers, and staff. Terminology is important when it comes to crafting a school safety plan. Familiarizing your team with the language of higher education safety can help to better understand safety strategies, tools, and safety roles. Here are 51 of the top higher education safety terms:

  1. Access Control Systems - residential facilities,  parking facilities, several classrooms, and academic buildings equipped with electronic access control devices designed to permit access to authorized students and staff members who possess a properly coded identification card
  2. Active ShooterThe U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines an active shooter as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims”
  3. Active Shooter Training - training for a wide range of campus employees including faculty, nurses, administrators, and more on how to best respond in the incident of an assailant on campus, can include a variety of strategies
  4. American College Counseling Association (ACCA) - an organization is made up of diverse mental health professionals from the fields of counseling, psychology, and social work who work in the higher education sphere
  5. American College Health Association (ACHA) - the organization of college health professionals made up of higher education healthcare workers, also publishes a journal on the state of mental health in higher education
  6. Anonymous Tip Submissions - a way for students to submit discreet and confidential tips, user-initiated texting increases engagement and reports of suspicious behavior, unsafe situations, crimes, and other hazards on campus
  7. Automate External Defibrillator (AED) - a portable electronic device often placed around campus which automatically addresses the life-threatening cardiac incidents
  8. Blue Light Phones - an iconic campus safety tool, blue boxes are placed around campus and allow students to contact campus safety or local law enforcement with the push of a red button
  9. Bystander Intervention Training - a prosocial intervention training which educates students on how to step up and be proactive in helping others, offers strategies for how to safely step in during a suspicious situation
  10. Campus Climate - the behaviors and standards of faculty, staff, administrators and students concerning the level of respect for individual needs, the general attitudes of the community at large
  11. Campus Police - sworn police officers employed by a college or university to protect the private property as well as students, faculty, and staff living and working on school grounds
  12. Campus Safety App - a phone app subsidizes your security program as a virtual escort and adds an extra layer of safety no matter where they’re located by allowing students to set a safety timer
  13. Center For Spiritual Life - most college and university campuses also provide is an inclusive, multi-faith center for religious and spiritual programming and support, including spiritual training and mindfulness training on campus
  14. Chief Information Officer (CIO) - the CIO is the senior executive who manages IT services on campus, including information and communications technology for colleges and universities
  15. Clear Bag Policy - A policy that requires the use of clear bags at football games or other large events.
  16. Cybersecurity - the protection of computer systems on campus from theft or damage to their hardware, software or electronic data, as well as from disruption of the services these systems provide
  17. Data Security - protecting digital data, such as those in a database, from destructive forces and from the unwanted actions of unauthorized users
  18. Diversity and Inclusion Center - college and university campuses committed to inclusivity often have a division for diversity and inclusion committed to helping the institution realize excellence goals
  19. Drills - an event that simulates an emergency situation, used in campus safety to condition students to follow appropriate protocol in stressful situations such as fire, evacuation, lockdown, or severe weather incidents
  20. Drug-Free Schools Act - requires regular distribution and review of drug and alcohol prevention policies and established prevention programs
  21. Emergency Coordinator - the campus safety official in charge of implementing evacuation orders, managing assuring accountability and relocation for all students, faculty, and staff on campus, working across safety teams
  22. Emergency Notification System - an emergency notification system which allows safety administrators to communicate with students, faculty, and staff via text, e-mail or voice message
  23. Evacuation - organized and supervised dispersal of students, faculty, and staff from campus a dangerous or potentially dangerous situation
  24. Fire Drills - a drill regularly conducted on campus in which students, faculty, and staff must take these drills to evacuate whenever a fire alarm sounds to promote safety in the incident of an actual fire
  25. First Responders - a professional designated and trained to respond to an emergency, from dispatch to arriving on the scene
  26. Generation Z - new and returning crop of college students on campus who were born between 1995–2009
  27. Hate Crime - crimes on campus motivate by prejudice in which the perpetrator targets a victim based on their race, identity, or social class
  28. Highly Visible Security - any additional security measures taken on campuses during a large event such as bag checks, vehicle-free zones, increased personnel, and metal detector or wands
  29. Large Events - any event on campus which may bring large crowds, including visitors or guests, such as football games, commencement, or major conferences
  30. Law Enforcement - local law enforcement operates separately from security on campus and will be called to handle certain threats
  31. Major Incident - an emergency that involves a large part of the campus which requires the response team to take immediate action to protect students, faculty and staff
  32. Minor Incident - when an emergency involves only one facility or a small part of campus
  33. Mitigation - the ability to reduce or prevent an emergency situation, preventing loss of life or damage to the campus
  34. Mobile ID Card - many college and university campuses are trying pilot programs where student IDs are on phone applications, allowing students to access campus services via their mobile phone
  35. Physical Security - security measures that are designed to deny unauthorized access to facilities or campus resources and to protect property from damage or harm
  36. Rape Aggression Defense Training (RAD) - a self-defense program for women which teaches women defensive techniques and concepts against assault by utilizing easy, effective, and proven self-defense strategies
  37. Safe Ride or Escort Services - an important way to ensure a student's safety when traveling on or to and from campus is to make use of his or her school's walking escort, safe ride, and shuttle services
  38. Security Cameras - used to record student misbehavior, identify perpetrators and deter crimes by suggesting perpetrators are being monitored, such as camera, closed-circuit TV, and video-motion detection system
  39. Security Guards - a campus security officer performs foot and vehicle patrols of the campus to monitor behavior, secure buildings, and property, investigate disturbances, and maintain order during events
  40. Severe Weather Emergency - any type of weather-related incident which puts student safety at risk or upsets campus operations
  41. Sexual Assault - there is a high rate of sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment, stalking and domestic/dating violence on campuses
  42. SMS Opt-In - a feature of emergency notification system which expands accessibility to  mass notification by letting members of the campus community, including visitors or guests, to opt-in to receive alerts using SMS and an assigned keyword unique to the institution
  43. Stop the Bleed - a type of training that equips students, faculty, and staff to act in a bleeding emergency before professional help arrives
  44. Student Health Center - the facility where students are able to seek medical care, also responsible for managing student medical records
  45. Student Success - highly-engaged, high-impact practices which promote students ability to continue to succeed in a higher education setting
  46. The Clery Campus Safety Act - federal regulation which requires higher education institutions to publish detailed reports on campus crime and security measures
  47. The Higher Education Opportunity Act - federal regulation which requires notice of emergencies and missing students as well as publication and testing of emergency response procedures
  48. Title IX - a law which prohibits sex discrimination on campus including toleration of sexual violence, and requires an immediate response to claims and campus wide procedures
  49. Vandalism - a type of campus property damage which involves the destruction or defacement of resources
  50. Verbal De-Escalation - a type of training in which employees learn how to de-escalate a situation before it becomes violent, including avoiding nonverbal cues which could be threatening and setting and enforcing reasonable limits
  51. Whistle Alert Program - a public safety program which provides a high-quality brass whistle to students or employees free of charge for situations where they feel threatened or attacked

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Mary Kate McGrath

Written by Mary Kate McGrath

Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.


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