Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo for The Western Front

WWU continues to request state funding for campus security upgrades

Plans include improved classroom doors and the ability to remotely lock building entrances

Outside access doors for Communications Facility on March 6, 2024, in Bellingham, Wash. The ability to remotely lock down exterior access doors to academic buildings is one of the university’s goals for safety upgrades. // Photo by Nate Landi.

In 2017, Western Washington University asked the state for $17 million to fund a project that would allow officials to remotely lock down exterior access doors for all academic buildings on campus. Upgraded replacements for interior classroom and lab doors, along with a centralized control system, were also included in the proposal.

“From the safety and security standpoint, WWU has determined that emergency lockdown capability during an active shooter event is of paramount importance,” Western wrote in its funding request.

“Recommendations from active shooter analyses across the country have concluded that locking, blocking or otherwise obstructing access to a classroom is a highly effective deterrent to an active shooter – thus an important life saving functionality,” the proposal continued.

One aspect of the project would provide classroom doors with the technology to be locked from the inside. 

Western has received $2.15 million for the project. The money will be used to install 63 exterior access control locks (out of 290 total) and 100 classroom and lab lock upgrades, according to the project checklist. 

“Most higher education facilities are older, so you have to be in a constant state of keeping things current and updating to where we are today,” said Monica Jackson, director of Emergency Safety and Business Continuity for Western.

Western continues to ask for the remaining $15 million for the project.

“It’s the funding from the state which will help these projects move a lot quicker and tackle an entire building in one fell swoop,” Jackson said.

Which academic buildings have been fitted with these security upgrades is unknown. The Front asked the university for information, but university officials declined to offer specific details for reasons of student and employee safety.

Research shows that the ability to lock classroom doors from the inside is a key safety feature in the event of an active threat.

“The [Sandy Hook Advisory] Commission’s research indicated that ‘there has never been an event in which an active shooter breached a locked classroom door,’” Western wrote in its proposal checklist for the project pitched in 2017. “Western’s emergency management committee urged the adoption of that standard for campus classrooms.” 

The 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killed 20 children and six adults.

Police cruisers.jpeg

University Police cruisers outside the Campus Services Building at Western Washington University on March 6, 2024. UPD plays a crucial role in emergency safety preparedness and protocol. // Photo by Nate Landi.

Campus safety

Mass shootings remain a serious concern for Americans. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics, last updated in September 2023, there have been 18 active shooter incidents on college campuses from 2000-2021.

“It’s one of my biggest anxieties,” first-year student Violet Ho said. “The places where I feel the least safe are in the classrooms.”

The project will complement existing safety measures Western takes. These include the Western Alert System, University Police, coordinated training with the Bellingham Police Department and online safety protocol videos. 

“Come spring we are going to be launching a new campus safety app,” Jackson said.

The app will allow students to communicate directly with university safety officials to provide and receive information during a campus emergency.

UPD regularly conducts drills with Bellingham Police and safety departments on campus, according to the Chief of University Police Department Katy Potts. They also coordinate with state agencies and the FBI on risk and threat assessment. Once made aware of a threat on campus, UPD protocol is to head directly to the threat. 

Western isn’t the only university requesting funding from the state for safety upgrades.

Katherine Schiffner, director of Strategic and Crisis Communications at the University of Washington in Seattle, said the university has similar goals for campus safety.

“The University of Washington has work to do in this area, like most campuses,” Schiffner said in a statement to The Front.

UW is working on a similar system that allows all of their exterior access doors to be locked remotely. Schiffner said they now have 71 buildings – out of more than 180 total – and 550 classrooms that are opened and closed with metal keys. 

The newer buildings on the UW campus are fitted with computer-automated locks that are managed by its University Police along with facilities and building coordinators.


A classroom in Academic West on March 6, 2024, in Bellingham, Wash. Space awareness and door safety are crucial to protecting yourself during an emergency when in classrooms. // Photo by Nate Landi.

How students can prepare

Jackson manages emergency preparedness and protocol for large-scale campus emergencies. 

Run-hide-fight is the standard protocol for an active threat on campus, but there is more students can do to make sure they are prepared. 

“We should be assessing our space, looking for and locating our exits,” Jackson said.

Spatial awareness is important for any space you are entering, academic locations included.

“That’s the first thing I think about when I enter a classroom,” Ho said. “I often think about what I can do to make myself more prepared for that situation.”

To further prepare, Jackson recommends the following:

  • Be aware of your surroundings when entering any space. This includes locating exits, locating potential barricades, classroom door locks, hiding spots and even a weapon if need be.

  • Know yourself as an individual. Are you the type to think clearly in an emergency? Are you the type to run? Fight back? Freeze up? Knowing how you might respond in an emergency can help you assess your space and help you to react to keep yourself safe.

  • Look for the Western Alert on your phone. The communications department will send an alert within the first three minutes of an emergency and will continue to update students/staff as the department receives more information.

  • When made aware of an emergency, assess the situation. Can you hear gunshots? If you are close to the threat you should lock doors if it’s safe, then barricade and hide. If you are farther away, run from the threat.

There are videos on the Western emergency procedures webpage that discuss run-hide-fight in the event of an emergency. According to Jackson, Western’s emergency safety department is working on new videos to provide extra safety tips, along with more training and drills for staff, faculty and students.

“If I knew that all of my professors were guaranteed to have some type of training and knowledge in that field it would make me feel a lot safer,” Ho said.

Learn more about active threats and Western Alert by reading The Front’s article on Western’s campus alert system.

Nate Landi

Nate Landi is a senior at Western Washington University and a campus reporter for The Front. He is a journalism major and is very interested in sports and local news. You can reach him directly at

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Western Front