A Day in the Life of Lawrenceville’s Public Safety Team

From major holidays to pandemics, the public safety team works nonstop to maintain campus safety and security in addition to tending to student and faculty needs.

From major holidays to pandemics, the public safety team works nonstop to maintain campus safety and security in addition to tending to student and faculty needs. From Lawrentians’ perspective, it may seem as though public safety’s primary responsibilities only consist of unlocking our doors and fulfilling work orders. While the team certainly comes to our rescue in these situations, its job goes far beyond surface-level duties, especially during the pandemic. So, what does public safety really do? The Lawrence went behind the scenes to see what a typical “day in the life” looks like for two members of public safety: Interim Director Joe Montonario and Public Safety Supervisor Michael Burns.

For Montonario, the day begins bright and early at 7:00 AM. While the rest of campus is barely awake, he is ready to go, performing precautionary Covid-19 measures. First, Montonario spends an hour disinfecting the public safety vans and gear, which include flashlights, uniforms, and equipment. Then, he begins to review work orders. On a particularly busy day, Montonario “can spend an hour or two reviewing the requests before [he] can get to fixing them.”

He spends the next two to three hours around campus, interacting with the community and checking the facilities of each House. These can range anywhere from squeaky doors—“You’d be surprised [as to] how many squeaky doors there are,” he said—to bee infestations, but more common issues include fixing air conditioners, locks, and the plumbing systems.

Montonario’s trips around the houses also entail keeping an eye on security “[I’m] constantly trying to keep everything working [well], whether that [be] an alarm or door issue.” Nevertheless, he never feels like the volume of work is “so taxing or challenging that [he] can’t handle it.” Around 2:00 PM, Montonario shifts his attention to incident reports. These days, incident reports are mostly outsiders coming onto campus without masks, or students who need transportation in public safety vans due to an injury. He coordinates with his team to ensure that all reports are taken care of on a daily basis in addition to work order requests and general safety checks.

Montonario has certainly been around the block. In his 21 years at Lawrenceville, he has seen quite the shift in his daily routine. “My role is similar, but it’s definitely taken on a much more security-focused outlook,” he said. He added that technology has made his job much easier over the years, allowing him greater control over the security of campus buildings. “When I first started, we were leaving dorms unlocked until 11:00 PM. Back then, we walked around every night locking doors and buildings, making sure everyone was secure. Now, doors are locked 24/7 and we have much more control over who comes in and out,” he said.

Another member of the public safety team, Mike Burns, shares similar experiences. A firefighter in Lawrence Township for 29 years before joining the School community, Burns has seen it all when it comes to public safety. As an evening supervisor, he typically signs into his shift at 4:00 PM. Around 4:30 PM, Burns checks each building on campus, one-by-one. “Between the hours of 4:30 PM and 7:00 PM, I do dorm checks. I walk through each dorm, four dorms an hour, looking for fire violations or leaks,” he said.

Burns believes that his biggest responsibilities are to “make sure [that] all buildings are checked and calls are answered.” Generally, he and his colleagues “handle different calls, [which include] lockouts, assisting faculty members, closing windows, and turning off lights.” He pays particular attention to issues relating to fire safety, especially when it comes to performing dorm checks.

Both Montonario and Burns’s roles have undergone numerous changes due to the pandemic. “For the three months that no one was here, public safety was still here everyday. We had to check for leaks or building issues, train faculty on campus to follow Covid-19 protective measures, and make sure everyone was wearing masks,” Montonario said.

“It was extremely eerie,” Burns added, “but we’re so happy to see everyone back on campus.” Montonario echoed Burns’s thoughts, noting that “the students and faculty are like nothing I’ve ever seen before.” Lawrenceville’s tight-knit community is Montonario’s “favorite part about working [at the School],” so he was especially “saddened to be on campus last spring without [the students].”

Day by day, Montonario, Burns, and the rest of the public safety team diligently work to ensure that students and faculty are taking safety and precautionary measures, especially during this time. The public safety team is arguably the “unsung hero” of the Lawrenceville community; whether it be adapting to new technology or navigating a pandemic, the team ensures that our community’s needs are met 24/7. As Burns puts it, “If [you] have a problem, [know that you] have a friend in public safety.”


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