Safety first with new plan

by Grant Rodgers

With the recent shooting at Millard South High School in Omaha and the assassination attempt on Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, now is as good of time as any for a refresher course on Simpson’s emergency policy concerning shootings.

Just weeks before the recent slough of shootings, President John Byrd and his cabinet approved a new set of guidelines to keep students safe during potentially dangerous situations, including shootings. Entitled the “Stay-In-Place” guidelines, the policy advocates students seek shelter in their respective locations, “restricting access and visibility by a threatening person.”

“Basically, as long as it’s safe to do so, stay where you are, shut the doors and windows, and try not to make much noise that could draw attention to yourself,” said Luke Behaunek, director of residence life.

To further ensure student safety, the policy outlines these stay-in-place procedures for residence halls and non-residence buildings. While the procedures vary for the two different locations, both scenarios include locking doors, turning off lights, seeking shelter that offers protection from gunfire and not sounding fire alarms.

Behaunek advises that students do not go near the scene of an incident.

“I think it’s a natural tendency of humans to try and figure out what is going on to see if people they know are affected and that is not going to help this type of situation,” Behaunek said.

If a shooting is to occur, students would receive a message through the college’s SAFE system, which remains capable of sending out a pre-recorded message to as many as six phone numbers, two e-mail addresses and one text message per student.

“We would send out alerts through the college’s SAFE system in regards to what information we have, some basic steps at that point to take, and also we would do any follow-ups through the system,” said Chris Frerichs, director of security. “If there is an emerging situation that is where you should get information from.”

Much the same as in any other area, prevention remains equally as important as preparedness in respect to violent situations. Stephanie Krauth, associate dean of students, points out how Rep. Giffords’ shooting could have been avoided.

“I was watching some of the interviews this morning with students who knew the shooter (Jared Loughner) from Arizona and had started to receive really weird text messages and started to see his decline,” Krauth said. “The thing I noticed watching some of those telecasts is they didn’t know who they could reach out to talk about what they could do to help their friend.”

Krauth, however, notes that the situation is different for Simpson students.

“The nice thing about Simpson is that we’re small enough (you can) find a community advisor (CA), call security, or stop by counseling services and get some feedback,” Krauth said.

The research for the new policy included reviews of several other schools’ policies and consultation with the Indianola Police Department. The next step, according to Frerichs, will be adding it to the Emergency Preparedness Plan available on the website. In conjunction with this, the security office will be providing further education to students on the policy’s new safety tips.

“We’re attempting to figure out how that’s going to take place, specific to the students,” Frerichs said.