The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

February 24, 2013

DACC to put phones in all classrooms


DANVILLE — Danville Area Community College board of trustees will take the first steps this week to install telephones in every classroom on campus.

“The upgrade of the college’s current phone system will allow us to put in phones in all of the classrooms for security issues or medical issues,” said Mike Cunningham, director of administrative services at DACC.

Having phones in the classrooms should “help instructors feel a little more comfortable,” he said. “They will be able to call 911 or campus security.”

The new phone system, plus phones to cover 80 classrooms, is estimated to cost $83,305.

In recent years, community colleges — like K-12 public schools and four-year universities — have been exploring ways to keep their faculty and students safe.

Just last month, two gunmen shot and injured three at Lone Star College, a community college just outside of Houston.

“We’re always looking at our facilities and possible upgrades,” Cunningham said. “Safety is a priority here.”

Although DACC’s classroom doors can be locked from the inside with a key, Cunningham admits that the open nature of a college campus presents other challenges in keeping it secure.

“It’s totally different for a community college (than a K-12 school) because the students are adults,” he said. “When you have multiple buildings, it’s not like a high school or an elementary school that you can lock down.”

With adult students, they will need to employ the safety measures of “run, hide, fight.”

“If you can exit — exit, if you hear gunshots in another building,” he said.

Public Safety Director Larry Thomason said that while “changes in security at the college would have to be looked at, the strategy remains the same whether it is a college or a high school or middle school.

“In many ways, the same techniques and the same procedures the faculty members should take is no different,” he said.

Currently, DACC uses a public address system with speakers on all floors of the college’s buildings to make announcements.

“If necessary, we can make an emergency announcement which could be weather-related or security-related,” Cunningham said. “In some areas, like offices, the announcement comes through the phone.”

DACC also offers an emergency text messaging and e-mail alert system — which Cunningham initiated three or four years ago — for students, child development center parents, faculty and staff.

The service is activated in the event of a potential, developing or existing on-campus emergency, or to advise about closings or class cancellations due to inclement weather.

“You don’t have to be on campus to get a message,” he said.

Cunningham said the college does hold practice drills with the faculty on “evacuating to a safe area outside and evacuating to a safe area inside.”

However, he said he would like to work with local law enforcement to set up “an active shooter” drill, similar to the one orchestrated last month for District 118 personnel.

“We’re trying to stay on top of things,” he said.