In light of recent shootings on several college campuses across the nation, students may wonder what Northwestern’s campus security policies are in the event a similar situation occurred here. Students may have noticed the “Active Shooter: How to Respond” link on the MyNorthwestern homepage. But many students probably are still not aware of what to do if students’ safety is compromised.
Andrew Van Ommeren is NW’s new Director of Campus Safety and Security. Van Ommeren took over the position after Peter Boerema left last year.
Van Ommeren said if students encounter a situation they are not sure about or are uncomfortable with, just call 911.
“Our first call always, with any emergency situation, is 911,” Van Ommeren said. “You don’t want to call me here on campus if it’s an emergency, you want to call 911.
“I always say if it’s anything you’re even questioning, that is borderline, call the cops. That’s why we have the partnership with them, they’re the ones professionally trained. When I get a call, I’m going to [call the police]. So you’re saving that transition time of me doing it, if it is an emergency situation.”
Van Ommeren said the college has a helpful working relationship with the Orange City Police Department and the Sioux County Sheriff should an emergency arise. Fortunately, there have not been any emergency situations yet this school year.
Van Ommeren wants to remind students to lock their doors, make sure they always have their keys and don’t let anyone into a residence building that they don’t know. While card-swipe entrances to dorms may be annoying to students, they are there for students’ safety.
Van Ommeren is seeking to learn all he can to keep NW up-to-date on campus safety. He said he looks to Dordt College, Buena Vista University and Augustana University — similar-sized colleges — to see what their policies are.
“I’ll be having conversations with Dordt and Buena Vista to see what steps they have maybe taken,” Van Ommeren said. “If they’ve taken more steps than us or not, from where we are currently with our procedures and policies, and learning from that.”
Van Ommeren suggests students look at all the resources available to them. Being in Orange City, students feel safe and secure, but they need to be aware that a tragic event can happen anywhere, and so precautions must be in place. In the email that President Greg Christy sent out to students, faculty and staff last week, he noted Orange City is ranked in the top 3 percent for lowest risk of crime and NW was ranked as the second safest four-year college in Iowa.
“Maybe one of our greater dangers is that attitude of ‘Well, we’re at Northwestern,’” Van Ommeren said. “Sometimes that can make us less aware of situations and possibilities, because we are blessed to live in the community that we do. But sometimes that can create a false secureness and blur our perceptions a little bit on reality.”
Throughout the year, Van Ommeren will be attending conferences and training sessions that will better equip him to handle any campus emergency situations — not just specific to a campus shooting. From there, he will pass on any information that he acquires to better prepare the campus as a whole.
For now, Van Ommeren urges students to invest time in reading the links and resources available on MyNorthwestern. He also reminds students to lock their doors, make sure they have their keys with them, and not to let anyone in that they do not know. While card-swipe entrances to dorms may cause an annoyance to students, they are there for students’ safety.
Suggested resources to check out:
“Active Shooter: How to Respond”—bottom right-hand side of MyNorthwestern once you have logged in.
“Campus Safety: Threat Response Information”— email last Friday from PGC.