RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – It is an annual event, spawned out of the tragedy at Virginia Tech. This year VCU plays host to the annual Governor's Campus Preparedness Summit. The summit brings together leaders from schools across Virginia to address needs and prepare for the future. Joining us to discuss the event is Donna Michaelis, from the Department of Criminal Justice Services, and Brandon De Graff, who is the Assistant Homeland Security Advisor in the Governor's Office of Commonwealth Preparedness. Thank you for being here.
Ryan Nobles: First you can talk a little bit the history behind this event. Why it started and what we can expect tomorrow.
Brandon De Graff: Well, thanks for having us on, Ryan. I really appreciate it. The Governor's Campus Preparedness Conference all came about, as you said, back in 2007 in response to the tragic shootings on the campus of Virginia Tech. This is the fourth annual conference now and it's just a great way to communicate campus security strategies, participate in panel discussions, and also examine the latest products and services related to campus strategies.
Ryan Nobles: The connection that is you get all these practitioners in one place to talk about all the different things going on campuses?
Brandon De Graff: It's great. We have over 400 participants coming tomorrow. We have nearly 20 vendors on site to kind of show us the latest things that they have got going as far as campus safety and security. It's a great way to have a back and forth with some of our expert panelists and speakers and get some great ideas, capture some action steps with the actual participants.
Ryan Nobles: And Donna you're from Criminal Justice Services and you're part of implementing some of these plans. We're going to show video here what VCU does a regular basis when are the siren alerts that prepare kids in the event that something is going on campus. This was spawned out of the summit. What type of things and some of the goals you hope to accomplish this week?
Donna Michaelis: The goal is always to bring higher education professionals to one place, no matter what discipline that they're in, to bring them around the table to discuss critical issues involving health and safety of students as well as crime and violence issues. We'd all like to think that campuses are safe havens for our students and faculty and staff, but the truth is, you can and victim any place and the best that we can do is bring the brightest minds together, have them identify any gaps we may have, talk about policies and legal actions that are needed in order to do the best we can for our students.
Ryan Nobles: And preparedness is kind of the key wore, right? In the wake of Virginia Tech, we stepped back and said we weren't necessarily prepared for something this horrific. Is the goal to make sure we're prepared for anything, if that's possible?
Donna Michaelis: Again, it's to extend communication to all responding parties. Obviously when you call 911 and the Calvary shows up. It's best to you have already spoken with them, best to have law enforcement relations there, to know who your first responders are and who have them in the same room so everybody is singing off the same sheet, so to speak.
Ryan Nobles: And tomorrow starts at 9:00 at Virginia Commonwealth Commons. I'm moderating the panel tomorrow so I'm looking forward to that. Thank you so much for being here and I'm sure we'll have coverage on it tomorrow to learn more about what you guys learned.
See the video at right for the full interview.