January 22, 2013

Q&A with Campus Safety Director Tim O’Dwyer

With school violence and gun control dominating the headlines, Campus Safety Director Tim O’Dwyer is working hard to improve Lewis & Clark’s emergency procedures.

With school violence and gun control dominating the headlines, Campus Safety Director Tim O’Dwyer is working hard to improve Lewis & Clark’s emergency procedures.

Last November, he organized an all-campus emergency lockdown drill designed to help students, faculty, and staff practice the steps they should take in case of a dangerous intruder or violent situation, such as a campus shooter.

After the drill was complete, participants were asked to take a short survey to measure awareness of campus emergency procedures.

While survey participation was lower than expected (approximately 3.2 percent of the campus community contributed), the survey helped assess existing campus security measures and identify areas that need improvement.

The following Q&A with O’Dwyer shares the survey results and the next steps toward getting Lewis & Clark better prepared.

What were the highlights of the survey results?

The good news is that 73 percent of those responding had already signed up for Blackboard Connect, which we use as our emergency notification system. About 75 percent knew the basic steps to take in a lockdown emergency, and 77 percent knew of at least one location to find our emergency procedures. Also, 56 percent reported “no obstacle” as they took the steps needed to complete the drill.

What concerns were raised in the survey?

Participants expressed frustration about the timing of the alert messages. It’s helpful to know that due to the limited number of telephone lines for incoming and outgoing calls, Blackboard Connect can’t deliver all the alerts to desk telephones at once and unsuccessful deliveries are reattempted at timed intervals. We’ll continue to seek solutions, but there are no easy fixes.

People inside buildings were unable to hear the Carillon Campus Alert Speaker system messages. At this time, the speakers around campus are set at maximum audible volume, and unless that system is improved, spoken messages won’t be audible inside buildings.

Other areas of concern are easier to address. For those unfamiliar with our emergency notification system, they can learn how to sign up for emergency alerts here. To get up to speed on our building lockdown devices, watch the video demonstration. If you don’t know the location of your evacuation assembly area, there are evacuation route maps displayed in every campus building with an inset showing the assembly area for that particular building.

Did the drill identify any new areas of concern?

Absolutely. Leading up to the drill, Campus Safety determined that there were more than a dozen buildings on all three campuses that have doors that are not easily locked down. Facilities Services has already been working on solutions for some of these areas.

The drill also reminded us that accurate contact numbers for nonresident undergraduate students are difficult to acquire, making registration for our emergency notification system even more important. Finally, the drill prompted us to look at modified lockdown plans for areas like Watzek Library (a large open space surrounded by windows) and buildings during evenings/weekends when few people are on campus.

What’s next for emergency preparedness at Lewis & Clark?

We’re going to continue working with Blackboard Connect, Cisco, and IT to find solutions to deliver emergency alerts to desk telephones and into classrooms. We’ll also work with IT and Facilities Services to expand our ability to deliver emergency alerts into buildings and throughout outdoor spaces across the three campuses.

We’re also taking some “big picture” steps that will make a noticeable difference. We’ll be using the Incident Command System at upcoming campus events—including commencements—to familiarize ourselves with the structure so that we can easily implement it in emergencies. In fact, we’ll have special vests so that you can easily identify key leaders during drills or emergencies.

Thanks to a Strategic Initiatives Fund grant, we’ll also be working with a consultant to develop comprehensive crisis management and continuity of operations plans.

Finally, the drills will continue! Expect another one next fall, with ongoing reminders of where to locate information about our emergency procedures, emergency notification systems, evacuation assembly areas, and lockdown devices.