New classroom locks make Simpson better-equipped to handle active threats


Photo by Austin Hronich/The Simpsonian

by Kayla Reusche, Staff Writer

About 60 classroom doors on Simpson College’s campus received new locks this summer in response to safety concerns. The new locks allow rooms to be locked from the inside.

The lockdown project began last fall after faculty and students shared concerns about the lack of safety measures in classrooms.

These concerns came in response to a string of mass shootings around the country and prompted Simpson’s administration to review its safety policies, according to Chris Frerichs, director of security.

“There was an awareness and a concern on the campus from various different individuals,” Frerichs said.

Simpson College Security and the Simpson College Emergency Preparedness Group made these concerns a priority as they spearheaded the lockdown project.

The Emergency Preparedness Group is comprised of mostly staff and a couple students from the Student Government Association and is represented by different departments and offices, Frerichs said.

Installation began the first week in August, and by the time classes began, every classroom door had the ability to lock from the inside, said Gary Dooley, assistant director and maintenance manager.

Before the lockdown project, every classroom was able to be locked, but it wasn’t always easy. Some doors required keys, while others had different locking mechanisms, Dooley said.

Uncertainties arose because in some areas, it wasn’t clear what an individual needed to do if there was an active threat on campus.

“It would be individual, however you thought the best would be, what steps you would need to take,” Frerichs said when describing past security procedures.

Policies and procedures were in place, but the ability to lock certain doors from the inside wasn’t an option.

When the lockdown project was approved, staff began surveying every room that was considered a classroom to discover which doors needed updated locks.

The new locks are common locks one could find in their home. They are located on the door knob and only require a simple turn with the thumb and finger.

Potential locks were reviewed, but security wanted to install simple devices that everyone would know how to work, Frerichs said.

These new locks are all about options.

“The goal is obviously to make it safer, but it’s really giving more options for individuals to take,” Frerichs said. “We will do everything that we can to try to get information out when events are occurring that affect the safety and security of the campus, but each individual also needs to take a role in their own safety.”

David Moissonnier, a senior majoring in athletic training and physical education, noticed the security concerns around campus, especially being trained as a security officer. The lockdown project eased his concerns.

“It feels safer having these locks, from a student’s perspective,” Moissonnier said.  “I can be in class, and if there’s something going on, lock the doors and do the rest of the protocol as a student.”

These proactive security measures should help students feel safer, Dooley said.

“It’s nothing that we have ever experienced here at Simpson, but we have to prepare for it,” he said. “Simpson always prefers to error on the side of caution and be proactive at keeping our students safe.”

The completed lockdown project may not be the perfect solution, and security hopes to run a drill this fall, Frerichs said.

Faculty, staff and students will be asked to provide feedback about their location on campus and if they thought they could take appropriate measures if an active threat was present. This will give security an idea of what areas need to be updated.

Training for these scenarios began last spring with faculty and staff. A Des Moines police officer shared the options people have during an active threat situation.

Student leaders and community advisers followed suit and received their training this summer.

Frerichs said the school hopes to offer training for students in the coming year.

Although the lockdown project is complete, security will continue to make this matter a priority through drills and trainings.  

“The goal is: You do anything you have to do to survive. In an ultimate situation where it’s life and death involved, you do what you have to do to survive,” Frerichs said.

Frerichs invites campus members to share their concerns with security in an ongoing effort to make Simpson a safer campus.