Dominican University Prepares With Active Shooter Drill

April 19, 2016

By Richard Bodee, Nayah James and Natalie Rodriguez

Last Wednesday, Dominican executed an active shooter drill under the guidance of Homeland Security and the River Forest Police Department.

“Conducting drills not only educates the Dominican community in what to do during emergencies, but also brings to light any deficiencies,” said John Tsouchlos, the manager of public safety.

“The drill was pretty much the same as the one we did in October, but our communication and training sessions brought more buy in from the Dominican community making an obvious difference in results,” Tsouchlos said. 

During those training sessions, Dominican faculty members were taught what to do in the event of the real thing and how best to accurately practice the drill.

At the conclusion of the drill, Sister Melissa Waters summarized her experience.

“We were notified by the cellphone of a student worker,” Sr. Waters said. “We knew to lock the doors and remove ourselves from offices that had windows. We looked for cover behind walls and under furniture.”

Amanda Cardin, director of Goedert Early Childhood Education Center, also received the emergency notification system (ENS) text. She said, “We have had a planned process since Sandy Hook and we have been practicing since then. However, we do not have an intercom system, so for now we have the text notification system to alert us.”

This brings to light several issues that Dominican can improve on. 

The first problem concerns the emergency text system in place. Many students claimed they either did not receive a text or they received a text after the drill had reached its conclusion. 

Robert Babcock, the director of residence life, said, “We have found that text delivery time is affected by carrier, which, unfortunately we cannot do much on our end. The MyDU system prompts people to update their information once a year. It is incumbent upon the individual to make sure that the correct information is in our ENS.”

The result of this issue, along with the fact that Dominican has no buzzer system or emergency blue phones, was that students in both the dining hall and residential dorms were not aware that the drill was in progress.

Senior Hailey Washington said, “I was in the dorms during the drill and I only found out about the it when I heard it over a janitor’s walkie-talkie.”

This introduces another problem. The announcement for the drill was only delivered in English. This problem would include the English Language Studies (ELS) program; however, ELS declined to participate in the drill. 

Babcock said, “Our campus partners, including those who are not Dominican employees, are eligible to sign up for ENS alerts.”

According to Tsouchlos, the River Forest Police Department’s commented on Dominican’s drill. They “commended Dominican for taking such an active role by having the training sessions and saying that Dominican is doing the right things in order to move forward with our emergency preparedness.” 

In the spirit of emergency preparedness, the next question will be if Dominican will have a full-scale exercise at any point in the future. 

Tsouchlos said, “It is a long process to arrange a full scale exercise like we hosted on campus in August of 2009. The planning and preparation lasted for more than a year before the actual event. So that would be something to discuss down the road.”