CONWAY, Ark. (KTHV) - September marks National Campus Safety Awareness Month on college campuses across the country. The University of Central Arkansas in Conway campus already feels safe to many students, even still the school continues to work at improving its safety procedures.
"I've always felt real safe, I've always felt real secure around here," said U.C.A. graduate student Drew Hawthorn. "They're pretty quick to respond, take care of you and all and they're pretty regular checking all the dorms and all the buildings.
Hawthorn said he's always felt safe on the UCA campus, even after a deadly 2008 shooting when he was an undergraduate.
"We heard the gunshots and very promptly campus was shut down, and within 5 minutes, I had a text on my phone about what was going on and asking us to stay put," said Hawthorn, recalling the incident. "In the years since then security's been a little tighter, but even then I feel like they responded very quickly."
"Many things came out of that to help make UCA a safer campus," said U.C.A. Police Department Organizational & Community Services Director Arch Jones. "After that incident occurred we were able to improve so many of the aspects of safety on this campus."
On Tuesday Jones helped facilitate an evacuation drill as part of the schools' efforts to make campus safer and participate in National Campus Safety Awareness Month.
"There was a significant amount of students and classes going on, I'm happy to say that they all evacuated to the emergency assembly area and the building was cleared so we were very encouraged," added Jones. "We've been focusing on the 'Big 3', we call it, and that was what to do in a big fire, what to do in an active shooter and what to do in a tornado. That's not to diminish any of the other things that could happen on a college campus, but we wanted to focus on those to make sure that we had a good foundation."
A Google search for crime on college campuses comes up with a report done by The Daily Beast which ranks UCA as the 5th-most "crime-rattled college in America". A closer look at the numbers, however, shows that the data used for the report comes from 2008-through-2010, the time period that includes the deadly shooting five years ago. More current statistics show UCA to be a much safer place than the report suggests.
"The police force here actually keeps everything sound and safe," said UCA senior Cody Cagle. "That shooting happened 4 or 5 years ago and they've just upped the ante since then they just make sure the students are always safe where they go."
"They've gone beyond what I would expect for them to do," added UCA grad student Kayla Guilliams. "They don't just post a map on the wall and expect you to look at it, they require everyone to go over it with you."
UCA has events planned throughout the month of September for National Campus Safety Awareness Month. On Thursday the school plans to test it's UCA-Alert text messaging system which alerts anyone who signs up of any emergency situation on campus.