Tom King and Your Security Adviser Talk Communicated Threats


Talking Communicated Threats With Executive Director Tom King

I recently had the opportunity to catch up with a good friend of mine, Tom King after a recent presentation on Communicated Threats at the 2016 IACELA Conference. Tom KingTom is the Executive Director of Campus Security at Haverford College and Bryn Mawr College, located just outside of Philadelphia.

It’s hard enough managing one college or university, but imagine overseeing campus safety at two colleges. It’s not an easy task, especially when you have to deal with two completely different institutions, administrations, and jurisdictions.

Even with the challenges of managing two colleges Tom King and his team do an excellent job keeping the students, faculty, and staff safe and secure.

Your Security Adviser Interview With Tom King

YSA:     How was your trip to Arizona and your presentation during the IACELA Conference? What was the topic and who did you present with?

Tom:    The trip was great!  Phoenix was a bit warm (118 degrees during the day), but the conference was informative.  I presented a session on Communicated Threats with Mike Hill, Director of Public Safety at Swarthmore College.  Phoenix FBI Office Agents Carey Cooper and Jim Egelston, who lent a Federal perspective, joined us.

YSA:     How did your presentation go and did you get any feedback from the attendees.

Tom:    Because the topic is so timely and important, the presentation went extremely well and we received lots of positive feedback.   Our session was held on the morning of the last day of the conference along with 4 simultaneous sessions, and we had standing room only attendance.

YSA:    Why did you pick Communicated Threats as your presentation topic?

Tom:   There is, correctly so, an emphasis on Active Shooter prevention and response.  We wanted to focus on communicated threats because it is a much more likely occurrence, yet not frequently addressed in emergency response planning. A look at the differing responses to communicated threats last December in Los Angeles and New York illustrates this – with LA closing schools while NY made the decision not to.

We dissected the timeline of a vague threat on social media towards a “university near Philadelphia” last October. Who were the stakeholders and decision-makers? What did the response entail? What was communicated and by whom?  It should be the focus of a tabletop exercise, not only to answer the above questions but also to test your institutions/businesses tolerance continuum.  How much of a threat will it take for you to alert the community or evacuate/close?

YSA:     What advice do you have when it comes to higher education institutions communicating during a crisis?

Tom:    In addition to a tried and tested plan and the technology to communicate effectively, the foundation of preparation is establishing and maintaining excellent internal relationships with students, staff, faculty and administrators (applicable to any organizational structure).  Building trust in your expertise is vital in a crisis – there isn’t time for hesitation or second-guessing.

Externally, relationships with local, state and federal law enforcement require constant cultivation, including as much hands on joint training as is possible.

YSA:     You and I have been in public safety for a long time, given your experience and expertise what advice or recommendations would give young security professionals?

Tom:    Maximize your opportunities.  It’s all about putting your interests and talents to full use.  There are many options in the ever-changing security landscape. Find out what parts suit your skill set best, and continually try to expand your portfolio.  Education – inside and out of the classroom should be a lifelong pursuit.  It is also very important, in my opinion, that you enjoy what you are doing and whom you work with.

YSA:     What do you see as the obstacles (challenges) facing higher education public safety over the next 5 years?

Tom:    The ever-changing legal landscape presents challenge as well as opportunity. The increase of expertise among school safety professionals over the last 20 years has been profound, and will continue to rise.  There has never been a better time for motivated and talented people to enter the world of education security and develop into the professionals who will be indispensable to ensure the longevity of on-campus higher education.  Hiring and retaining them is paramount.

There is nothing more important than education.  And students, staff, and faculty can’t participate in education if they aren’t safe.

YSA:     Looking into your crystal ball, what challenges lie ahead for the security industry over the next 5-10 years?

Tom:    The growth of technology has been astounding, but it must be matched by expanding skill sets of those who oversee it.  In addition, policies and laws need to adequately address the delicate balance concerning privacy vs protection.

YSA:     What does the future hold for Tom King?

Tom:    I’ve taken my own advice and continue to learn!  I’ve become better at taking advantage of opportunities to share my experiences with others who will guide the future of this enormously important profession.  I continue to enjoy it, and will be involved in some way as long as I do.

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Tom King Contact Information

Tom King

Executive Director of Campus Safety

Haverford Colleges and Bryn Mawr


Tom King Bio

Tom King is the Executive Director Campus Safety at Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges.

He has 40 years of experience in law enforcement, including 20 as a police officer, detective, and detective supervisor with the Philadelphia Police Department.  He went on to become the Deputy Chief for Investigations at the University of Pennsylvania Police Department.

He has been Director of Campus Safety at Haverford College for the past 16 years and assumed the oversight of Bryn Mawr College’s department 8 years ago.

Tom King has a BA in Criminal Justice from Temple University and a MEd from Holy Family University.  He taught Education Law in the Department of Graduate Education at Holy Family University for 13 years.  He is a Certified Protection Professional with the American Society of Industrial Security, and a member of their School Safety and Security Council.  Tom King is a past President of the Campus Security Directors Association of the Delaware Valley and he still serves on the Board.

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