MCC’s commitment to campus safety
What keeps me up at night? As a parent, wife, daughter, friend, colleague and college leader there are many issues and concerns that oftentimes keep “the sandman” away. But I have to admit that headlines like “32 Killed at Virginia Tech” (2007), “27 Killed at Sandy Hook Elementary” (2012), and “10 Killed at Umpqua Community College” (2015) are regular sleep interrupters.
Marshalltown Community College prides itself on connecting students with their educational experience; engaging students with each other, the faculty, and the staff; and ensuring that students are succeeding with graduation, transfer, and employment. Another thing we pride ourselves upon that doesn’t often make it onto marketing materials is our commitment to the safety and security of our students, employees, and visitors. We have invested in ALICE training, which we simplify to “run, hide, fight” as a reminder that we have choices when we feel we are in danger. We have enhanced communication methods, including our mass text message Emergency Notification System, phone paging system, safety guides, and instructional posters. We have an active Campus Safety Committee that reviews our policies, procedures, and opportunities for improvement. And we have a robust and collaborative relationship with area public safety agencies, in particular the Marshalltown Police Department.
Nearly a year ago, I received an invitation from Marshalltown Police Chief Mike Tupper to have MCC host a mass casualty/shooting simulation training exercise. We heartily accepted, and after months of planning among public safety agencies the event occurred in July with nearly 100 college student and employee volunteers serving as victims, role players, and observers. We benefitted greatly from this experience and learned several lessons which we are employing this year. First, preparation is key because prevention is difficult. Second, internal and external communication protocols and alerts require continuous refining and improvement. Third, with a constantly rotating student and visitor population we need to train our employees really well so they can guide and help in the event that the worst happens. And fourth, we must continue to engage in partnerships with our local emergency service agencies like the police and fire departments.
According to the FBI, schools and businesses comprise 70 percent of the riskiest locations for active shooter incidents, which is why slumber is elusive when my mind starts to think about the safety and security of our students and employees. But it is opportunities like the mass casualty simulation that help me rest easier knowing we are striving to be as prepared as possible and have great partners who are available to help us so we can concentrate on our central purpose — to educate.
Dr. Robin Lilienthal is provost of Marshalltown Community College.