Message from Corey Landstrom, Vice President and Dean for Student Life

February 2018

Spring semester is underway and we’re experiencing a broad range of spring weather in Decorah from snow and ice to sunshine and rain. Spring may not always be in the air, but it is in our minds.

As this semester moves forward, students will also need to make decisions about next year: What classes will I take in the fall? Where will I live next year? Who will be my roommate if I have one? Students recently received room draw information and it’s important to recognize different housing options may have different room rates as well as requirements about meal plans. You can find information on the Residence Life room draw page.

Of course spring semester is a bit different for seniors as they face decisions about employment, graduate school, volunteering, or other experiences. The Career Center is one place they should visit for help and guidance with those important decisions. Ideally, students engage with the Career Center throughout their Luther career, but it is never too late to connect with the Career Center staff who are ready to assist.

Campus Safety

The tragedy in Florida and other shootings can leave us reeling with anxiety and concerns about our own safety and the safety of our loved ones. And, for anyone who has experienced such an event, the trauma can be even more difficult to navigate. We share your concerns about the safety and security of your son or daughter. As a parent, I am keenly aware of how important this is. I want to share some information about what we are doing at Luther.

We have an infrastructure for responding to emergencies which includes an Emergency Response Team, Emergency Communications Team, and an Emergency Support Team. The Emergency Response Team meets monthly to review our readiness and identify actions we should take in emergency situations. We conduct tabletop exercises, and most recently in January, focused our attention on an active shooter situation.

In addition to the above teams, the following departments or committees also monitor, assess, evaluate, and respond to safety-related concerns:

  • Campus Safety & Security
  • Safety Committee
  • Care Team (Behavioral Intervention Team)
  • Threat Assessment Team
  • Environmental Health & Safety

In March, several members of the above teams and committees will be participating in threat assessment training. Much of the work of the teams and committees focuses on prevention efforts and part of their work is to focus on early interventions that preempt the need for an emergency response. They may take direct action or make recommendations for a focused, institutional response.

We use FEMA’s National Incident Management System and Incident Command System to organize our response efforts. The Incident Command System (ICS) provides a flexible, integrated approach to all-hazards of all-sizes. It is what law enforcement and emergency responders use and provides clear protocols for working across agencies and organizations.

On campus, we have previously initiated and continue to refine efforts to improve our readiness. These include but are not limited to:

  • Launching prevention initiatives
  • Reviewing, updating, or establishing protocols
  • Developing and revising policies
  • Coordinating and offering training opportunities
  • Developing and retaining strong and effective relationships with law enforcement, emergency management, fire department, and local medical providers

After attending a recent active shooter training session, I left feeling that while we have made strides with our emergency response planning and preparation, there remains work to do in order to better prepare our community for emergencies. This spring semester we will be offering students an opportunity to attend active shooter training sessions. Attendees will be introduced to the Run, Hide, Fight model. Our local law enforcement and county emergency responders, as well as many schools, colleges, and universities, use and train around this model. The Run, Hide, Fight YouTube video linked above provides an overview to the model; please know you may find the video uncomfortable given the subject matter. I encourage you to review the video and that you ask your student to do the same. It will be important to have a conversation with your student about what they might do, whether on campus or in any other setting.

Many people want to have a clear and actionable plan during such situations. The frank reality is we can prepare generally for what we can do, but the variables that exist are far ranging and can change in an instant. That leaves the development of a straightforward checklist or plan difficult to develop. According to the Department of Homeland Security trainer who led the active shooter training I attended, the goal during such situations is that each person should be in an active, ongoing assessment of real time factors. What one should do requires the best possible read of the current situation and an acute awareness of their environment. For students, this means they should be familiar with their residence hall or facility, classroom buildings, and other places such as Preus Library, Dahl Centennial Union, Regents Center, and the Center for Faith and Life. Students should ask themselves: Where do they go if they need to run? Where can they hide? What could they use if they need to fight. This is a tall, yet important task.

Having conversations about “what would you do if” are not what we may naturally be drawn to and they can be incredibly discomforting. However, they are extremely important. I am reminded of having lunch with my brother-in-law who is a retired law enforcement officer. I had not previously noted his practice when he sits down in a restaurant. When we were seated, he had me sit with my back to the door of the restaurant so that he could continue to observe who was coming. This practice was something he built into a habit. It was a small lesson to me that I can (and should) be doing what I can to observe and place myself in the best position to be prepared and ready. This is something we can all do as we continue to build upon our capacity to respond to emergency situations.