By Michelle Gideon
What do RCC, SOU, MPD, and the FBI all hold in common?
Staff members from each of these departments were on hand late January while a staged lock-down took place in the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in Medford.
According to Grant Lagorio, RCC Director of facilities and operations, the purpose of this drill was to test the functionality of the lock down devices, and to observe a mock lock-down in order to identify any flaws that could be fine tuned.
“In the event of an actual emergency where an armed intruder was in or near the facility, we want to make sure that everyone in the building stays as safe as possible,” said Lagorio.
The doors leading into the HEC building and stairwell areas are all equipped with electronic locking devices that can be simultaneously activated.
“Each floor has a lock-down button,” said Lagorio.
“When a button is pressed, it secures the corresponding floor by prohibiting entry through the doorways and elevators on to other floors.”
Lagorio said that in addition to the locking devices, the plan also includes a timely warning announcement system.
This system requires a four digit code to be pressed, which turns the phone speakers on in each room so that instructors can be informed that a lock-down is in effect.
The overhead PA system is also activated so that instruction can be given to everyone in the building.
Heather Freiheit, SOU EMHE Disaster Preparedness grant director said that flyers were sent out to all staff members the night before the lock down to notify staff of what to do and procedures to follow during the drill.
“Tuesday morning prior to the lock-down, I visited with students near the coffee shop downstairs and told them about the drill,” said Freiheit. “I asked them to think about where they might go and what they would do,” she added.
Lagorio said that the HEC building was relatively full just before the drill, and that Medford Police and FBI officers were present to offer support, insight and suggestions on how things should be done.
At 10:15 am, the lock-down devices on each floor were activated.
“The phone system and PA devices were utilized, and two or three staff members were on each floor to insure that every door was locked, including class room doors, and that students in each room were hidden out of sight,” said Lagorio.
Linda Renfro, Dean of instruction and college preparatory education, said, “Over all, the drill went quite well.”
“There were a few glitches with the phone and PA system that need to be tightened up, but that’s why we do a drill,” Renfro said.
Medford Police Officer Ernie Whiteman agreed, saying “Being that it was the first time the school held a drill, I think everything went surprisingly well.”
Whiteman added that he has overseen many drills in the past, and that this one ran pretty smoothly.
“The only thing that really crossed my mind was that we needed to make sure that our department had ease of access during a lock-down,” he said. “We don’t have keys to the building currently, so that would be an issue, if we arrived after the lock-down was initiated.”
Freiheit agreed as well saying “I think the drill was great.”
“We need to consider putting blinds up on all of the windows, I think, so that every person inside the building is out of sight and safe.”
When asked if other buildings on campus would be included in the future, Lagorio said that the HEC building was first because it was built with all of the proper equipment, but that he hopes to have lock-down capabilities at all of the facilities eventually.
“I am very pleased with how our first drill went,” said Lagorio.
“We plan on having another one soon to re-test the system and fine tune the process.”
Lagorio said that in order for such a process to be successful, faculty has to be part of the entire plan. “They are the leaders of each group, and if faculty does not participate, the students are not going to know what to do.”
“I am pleased that we were able to have FBI and Medford Police Officers here during the event.”
“We invited them, and they came,” Lagorio said.
“We learned many things today, and we did it with the help of these officers,” he concluded.