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Campus Officials Work to Ensure Safety

Written by: Mikaela ConleySeptember 21, 2017

David Wesse knows about the different types of emergencies that can happen on a college campus.

He started as the vice chancellor for finance and administration at Louisiana State University Alexandria in 2003 prior to coming to IPFW. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina hit his campus, followed by Hurricanes Gustov, Ike and Rita years later.

“My concern is that we never know what is going to happen,” said Wesse, now the vice chancellor for finance and administrative affairs at IPFW. “We are long overdue with a drill. The problem with a crisis is that we don’t know where it’s coming from.”

That is why Wesse, along with Director of Public Relations Kimberly Wagner and the rest of the crisis planning committee are taking action.

In the beginning of September, Wesse and Wagner announced via email that a campus-wide emergency drill would take place in October.

“The safety of our campus is a top priority and university leaders are committed to protecting faculty, staff, students and guests in the event of an emergency,” the email said. “Planning and preparation is critical to our success in responding to future emergency events and I hope you all make an effort to participate in the drill.”

Wagner could not disclose the exact date or type of drill that will occur to ensure that it is as accurate as possible.

Wesse said he understands that students will be in classes, studying and taking tests, and that the drill will be disruptive to normal campus functioning; however, “emergencies are disruptive,” he said.

“It’s better to be prepared and put people in that mindset by going through a drill versus not knowing how to respond,” Wagner said.

Students, faculty and staff will receive weekly emails with reminders about the drill and general campus safety tips.

“This is really an initiative,” Wagner said, “to get students and everyone on campus thinking about safety in general.”

These emails will include an updated emergency handbook, information about safety alerts and more, Wagner said.

The drill will also serve as a training opportunity for local public safety agencies, Wagner said.

The Fort Wayne Police Department, Allen County Police Department, Fort Wayne Fire Department and Three Rivers Ambulance Authority will be on the scene the day of the drill, in addition to the IPFW Police Police Department. University officials have been working with the director of Homeland Security in Allen County to get these agencies involved and plan this training opportunity.

“In the event of any large-scale emergency, they’re all going to be there anyways, so not only does this give us the opportunity to somewhat train with them … this is a really good opportunity for them to train and work on some of those plans,” Wagner said.

In addition to the scheduled drill, university officials are taking other precautions to ensure campus safety. For instance, automated locks are currently being installed on classroom doors.

“When I was growing up, the fire department wanted to make sure everyone could get out of a classroom. Now there may be a need to secure a classroom,” Wesse said.

The update will allow for all of the doors to be locked from a remote location, leaving it possible for individuals to exit the room if need be, but impossible for someone to enter.

“I hope that people take this (drill) seriously. We are not just doing this to check a box off a list,” Wagner said. “It’s because it’s important. People need to know what to do in case of any emergency.”