State program to increase campus safety, readiness

By Matt Daray

Universities statewide are participating in a test program designed to inform students that safety is a high priority on their campus.

The Illinois Emergency Management Agency announced a pilot program April 22 for the Ready to Respond Campus initiative, a program that will set rigorous standards for universities to meet in order to receive program designation. The certification will allow universities to use approval in their promotional material and allow parents and students to determine whether their university places high importance on campus safety.

SIU is one of nine participating schools in the program alongside the University of Illinois in Champaign and Columbia College in Chicago, according to the IEMA website. The program is expected to expand to other schools and universities January 2014, according to the website.


Brian Brackemyer, Illinois Emergency Management Agency regional coordinator, said the program’s university-level role is to have adequate safety plans that are updated and to practice safety measures for each university. IEMA director Jonathon Monken created the program concept, he said.

Brackemyer said the campuses must demonstrate compliance with standards such as hazard identification, operational and violence prevention planning, incident management, training and exercises to attain the Ready to Respond designation.

However, Todd Sigler, department of public safety director, said the program is an extension of safety programs and preparations that DPS has been working on for several years.

“This is sort of an outgrowth of work that the university has already been doing in regards to all hazards planning,” he said. “As of 2008, college campuses and community colleges of Illinois are required to have an emergency response plan ready to go, prepared and on file.”

The pilot project is exciting because it allows the department to look over its plan and fix any gaps or flaws that might be in some plans, Sigler said. While it would be nice to receive the Ready to Respond rating, he said, the department’s main focus has always been safety first.

“We don’t do it for gratitude,” he said. “We do it so that the campus can be as prepared and as safe as possible for students, faculty, staff and visitors. To get the recognition, to successfully complete the program and to be certified … as a campus ready to respond, we would take a lot of pride and satisfaction in that.”

Sigler said the pilot program covers areas of campus safety such as communication, how to continue in disaster aftermath and how to handle media outlets.


While the university is working to improve its programs, several students said they already feel safe from natural and man-made disasters at the university.

Eric Churilla, a sophomore from Maryville studying nursing, said he thinks half of student safety is students’ personal responsibilities. Churilla feels safe from any disasters such as tornados and mass shootings, he said.

Jeffrey Hughes, a junior from Waukegan studying sociology, said he thinks the systems the university has set up and good communication between most students will eliminate almost any chance of a disaster affecting the university.

“I feel like we have a very good system in place in case of a tornado or something like that,” he said. “I feel like all the students intermingle with each other, so I don’t feel like (anyone) is going to come and shoot up the school.”

Matt Enger, a junior from Morris studying forest hydrology, said while he is unsure how the university would handle an actual incident, he thinks they at least have plans in place.

“I think the system they have in place, they obviously have it rehearsed,” he said. “For instance, the last tornado warning that came about, all the teachers and all the employees of the school acted quickly, got everyone into safe buildings. It seems pretty organized and wasn’t chaotic or anything.”