NEIU’s active shooter preparedness plan

Rebecca Denham, News Editor

In light of the shootings in El Paso, Texas on August 3 and in Dayton, Ohio on August 4, President Gibson released a statement to the NEIU community on Monday, August 5.

It read, “This type of violence must end, and we all must do what we can to promote a more just and peaceful world. We can start by looking at ourselves and our community. Peace and civility aren’t just threatened by gun violence; harassment, intimidation and disrespect for one another also endanger our University’s mission, values and well-being.”

Gibson concluded the message with a call to action. “The Northeastern Illinois University Community must unite to show the world how we work to promote tolerance and compassion.”

According to a recent report conducted by a company called A Secure Life, NEIU was ranked as the seventh safest campus in the United States. Similarly, a 2017 report by ADT Security ranked NEIU as the safest campus in Illinois.

NEIU police department’s chief of police, John Escalante, credits the level of safety on campus to a continual effort by the department to update their procedures as new information comes in.

Escalante said, “We constantly assess our preparedness for all emergencies. In regards to active shooter incidents, we gather as much information on those tragic events and examine how we may have responded to a similar scenario. We routinely look at our plans to see how we can best be prepared.”

NEIUPD also provides resources for students, faculty and staff to inform and prepare the community in the instance of an active shooter on campus. “We promote on our police web page the concept of " Run, Hide, Fight.”  With Indiana University's permission, we modified the video they produced in 2017 for their campus.  Our modified version features NEIU specific information,” said Escalante.

Alongside the information provided for the hypothetical emergency, Escalante also urges all students to “take advantage of the CampusShield mobile app, which provides quite a bit of information on overall campus safety and is always accessible on (students) phone.” While the BRG message boards located throughout campus and emails sent to students’ accounts offer information as it is gathered, the app allows for safety updates to be shared in real-time.

Currently, there are Chicago municipal fire codes that place certain restrictions on NEIU from being able to lock classroom doors. Because of this, Escalante said that the police department is “limited in how (it) could ‘lock-down’ the campus. These restrictions apply to all schools in the city including all higher education institutions.”

Escalante is working in unison, “with other colleges and universities in the city as well as Chicago elected officials and the pertinent city agencies to amend current municipal codes to allow certain types of locks to be installed on classroom doors.” He added that the aforementioned online video covering the “Run, Hide, Fight” video offers other ways to block and secure non-locked doors.

While the NEIUPD is working towards fire codes that allow for other preventative measures against an active shooter, the CPD 17th district is also in close communication with the campus police. According to Escalante, NEIUPD has, “trained with (the CPD) on campus in the past on everything from active shooter building searches to bomb threats and response.”

Additional cross-training with the CPD happens frequently. A virtual reality training was scheduled two weeks ago with the 17th district that involved, “various threat situations including school and classroom scenarios.” Another training session with both parties is scheduled for September.

“It is important that (NEIUPD) keep the officers of the 17th District familiar with the campus and NEIU officers, should NEIU ever need to call for their assistance,” stated Escalante.

While all of the procedures set in place are continually adjusting as new information is given, Escalante wants to convey a message of safety. “We are fortunate to have a safe environment to work and learn in, and credit should be shared by the NEIUPD as well as the entire NEIU Community.”