Ithaca College has started conducting routine shelter-in-place drills and installed a new Emergency Notification System (ENS) to prepare the campus community in case of an emergency situation.
Shelter-in-place drills at the college occurred Aug. 29 in Muller Chapel, Oct. 11 in the Hill Center and Center for Health Sciences and Oct. 15 in the Office of Career Services. The Office of Public Safety and Emergency Management conducts these drills to help inform the campus community of the proper procedure during a shelter-in-place situation, ranging from severe weather to chemical spills to an active shooter. Terry O’Pray, lieutenant in Patrol and Security Services, said the drills are meant to prepare the campus community for any kind of event that would elicit the need to shelter in place.
Elyse Nepa, coordinator for Public Safety, said the drills begin by asking those involved to enact their emergency action plan. These plans have already been developed as part of the Emergency Readiness and Response program, Nepa said. The drill lasts for approximately 15 minutes and involves no simulated active shooter. During the drill, designated shelter spaces are checked to make sure they are secured, Nepa said.
Dave Maley, director of public relations, said the first drill was held Jan. 10. Maley said a debrief takes place following the drills.
“At the debrief, people get to talk about their experiences and ask questions and learn more from one another,” Maley said.
According to Public Safety’s Emergency Response Training document, in a shelter-in-place situation, students and staff should look for the best place to seek shelter. For example, a room with windows would not work during a severe weather scenario but could be ideal in other situations. Any doors and windows should also be locked.
Tom Dunn, associate director for Public Safety, said the college recommends following a “run-hide-fight” strategy in an active–shooter situation. The Public Safety website links a “run-hide-fight” video done by SUNY New Paltz that recommends first checking if it is possible to safely exit the building. If not, then the video recommends seeking out a room to take shelter as well as locking the doors and windows. The strategy calls for fighting as a last resort.
Kristin LiBritz, executive director of the Office of Career Services, took part in the Oct. 15 drill.
“While we hope to never need to implement an emergency response procedure, it was well worth the time dedicated,” LiBritz said via email.
The deadliest school shooting in the United States was at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University on April 16, 2007, which left 33 people dead, including the shooter. In August, there were two deadly shootings back to back in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
“What we will be rolling out is additional opportunities for putting emergency information before the campus community,” Maley said.
College The app will also allow for push notifications, Maley said. If a student does not download the app, they will still receive updates from ENS. Public Safety strongly encourages all students who are not currently signed up for ENS to sign up so they can receive important updates.