Red 'panic' buttons installed at USF for emergencies

- Fears of active shooters are a reality on college campuses.

We've seen it first-hand at FSU, but now a new emergency system is being installed across the University of South Florida campus.

In 10 buildings, students and staff now have a tool to lock the doors instantly in the case of a campus emergency - such as an active shooter.

Most people are familiar with these "blue light" emergency stations. Students can walk up press a button and campus police show up in minutes.

USF is taking a similar approach with its new red buttons, which will allow students to call for help without even leaving their building.

With the push of one button, doors will lock, keeping any threat to students and staff – out.

"People inside can still get out, but people outside can't get in,” explained USF’s assistant communications director, Aaron Nichols.

The emergency lockdown system at the University of South Florida was installed in 10 buildings over the winter break. Officials wanted to focus on areas that hold the most students, like the auditorium in the college business building.

"We've placed these buttons in some of the large auditoriums on campus," Nichols said.

They say the safety tool is a precaution following high-profile incidents like the attack at The Ohio State University November 28, where an 18-year-old student intentionally drove a car into a crowd on campus, then, got out with a butcher knife and started stabbing people. Eleven were injured - one critically.

"We assess the different situations that occur across the country, and our tactical guys, our operational guys, we all get together and talk about how would we handle this?" said USF Police Chief Chris Daniel.

USF police say the red panic buttons give students a chance to take their safety into their own hands until officers arrive and assess a threat.

"It falls in line with the 'Run, Hide, Fight' stance that we've taken, and in a sense, this provides the hide," Chief Daniel said.

Under the new system - the doors remain locked until police or a facilities manager unlocks them. Officials say they're planning to add 10 more red buttons on campus by the end of June.

"Even if it doesn't happen here, mentally, training wise, we're all prepared for it," Daniel said.

Campus police say once someone presses the button, they should immediately call 911.

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