Nothing can truly prepare an institution for what happened to Umpqua Community College on Thursday, according to Iowa Western Community College’s top official. President Dan Kinney told the Daily NonPareil the mass shooting – which left nine people dead and seven others wounded – was a tragedy that cannot be prepared for by community colleges or other schools. Iowa Western has conducted training with the Council Bluffs Police Department for an active shooter situation. College employees are also trained in ALICE, a set of procedures for that sort of situation on campus short for:
• Alert others to the danger using plain and specific language.
• Lockdown by barricading the room and preparing to take further action.
• Inform others of the violent intruders’ location and direction.
• Counter using noise, movement, distance and distraction to reduce the ability of the intruder to shoot accurately, but don’t fight the intruder.
• Evacuate when safe to do so to leave the danger zone.
Because the college anticipates “quite a few” retirements, Kinney said he expects additional ALICE training will be held next fall. Iowa Western has a team of staff members who plan for emergency response. Two incidents in recent years have provided an opportunity to check that the college’s procedures work.
In April 2014, a shooting on campus – where a 19-year-old was shot in the upper left arm in what apparently was a Craigslist deal gone wrong – prompted notifications and increased security presence on campus. But Kinney said cameras at the college made the difference for law enforcement. Iowa Western didn’t need to make any real changes after that situation, according to Kinney. The college has more than 600 cameras on its Council Bluffs campus, which includes student dormitories and suite-style apartments. The 2014 shooting took place in a parking lot outside of student housing.
The college’s dorms are secured using identification cards that are coded to building locks. Kinney said entrances are logged within one-tenth of a second by a computer, which only allows authorized card-holders access to facilities. In April 2008, a bomb scare at Iowa Western followed a similar incident at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. The threat was made by someone writing a specific threat and time in graffiti in a bathroom stall, outside the watch of Iowa Western’s camera network.
Students were notified of the incident using Reiver Alert, an opt-in system where students can also be told about weather closings and similar messages. Kinney said the college has another system that broadcasts notifications to everyone, with no opt-in requirement, for use in an active shooter or similar emergency situation.
The bomb scare showed Iowa Western that it wasn’t prepared for a couple hundred people who wanted to come to campus when news of the potential threat was released. Kinney said the people who could have made the threat were narrowed down to a handful of individuals. Fortunately, it ended up being a hoax, as did the threat at UNO earlier that spring.
Iowa Western’s annual security report, required by federal transparency legislation, shows the campus had only a handful of violent crimes in the past year. The full security report, as well as information on Iowa Western’s safety procedures and policies, can be found on the college’s website at iwcc.edu/security.