A Chicago area college encourages other schools to be on heightened alert and examine their own preparedness after a suspected gunman on Thursday opened fire in an Oregon community college, killing 9 people.
Officials significantly ramped up security not too many years ago at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, following another deadly incident closer to home.
“As a result of the tragedy at Northern, we wanted to make sure we had more robust security,” said David Cronan, the school’s executive director of human resources.
The 2008 Valentine’s Day massacre at Northern Illinois University ended with 5 students dead, and Prairie State College realized they might not be ready in a similar incident. At the time, college officials say they only had unarmed security guards.
“This is our area, this is our home, we protect it,” said Officer Robert Pinnow of Prairie State College police.
After the tragedy, they upgraded emergency call boxes, added nearly 150 cameras throughout campus, and installed a silent panic button in every classroom.
“If you have someone confronting you, just like a panic button in a bank, they just flip the button,” said George Pfotenhauer, the school’s police chief.
Pfotenhauer says the 14 full-time officers also undergo firearms and active shooter training.
“We hope and pray we've done enough but we can't ever just sit still we have to be aware of what's happening,” Cronan said.
Other schools commented on the issue of security in light of the shooting.
“City Colleges of Chicago expresses its deepest condolences to the students, faculty, and staff of Umpqua Community College," a spokesperson for the school said. "City Colleges placed its security teams on alert in response to this incident, and we regularly conduct prevention measures, including active shooter training. We remain vigilant about providing our students, faculty and staff with safe and secure teaching and learning environments.”
"Loyola’s Department of Campus Safety has police officers and security officers patrolling our Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses 24 hours a day, and we maintain a close working relationship with the Chicago Police Department," a spokesperson for the school said. "On campus, we have a panic alarm system, a public address system, and an extensive closed-circuit video network. In the event of an emergency, we can also activate Loyola Alert, a notification system that distributes messages to our community."