Safety and Security at Misericordia

by Ernie Stark

One of the areas of administrative responsibility of Associate Executive Director Father Jack Clair is campus security. Recently, I asked Father Jack about how Misericordia keeps staff and residents safe.

  • Father, what are the steps taken in the past few years to increase campus safety?

Over the past few years, many things have changed. Some are best kept confidential. Others are quite visible: Locked doors are now the rule throughout the campus not   only on all residences, but the Ridge entrance, to areas beyond the Greenhouse Inn, business office and laundry. Elevator access requires ID activation. To enable staff to lock down areas if needed, many doors required new locks to be installed. Bullet proof glass has been installed at public entrances.

  • Is the campus completely fenced? Are there times within a 24hour period when all the gates are locked?

New fencing has been installed in several areas, and the campus is completely fenced with some obscure areas being doubly fenced. Gates are opened at various times, though some are rarely opened except during snow removal and Fest. Some gates may be closed to traffic, but they have a person entrance next to them. These have electronic activators so we can control who may use them and when. The Ridge gate is rarely closed due to shift changes and the need for emergency access. If there is an emergency, security is to go to that entrance and control access. In an extreme emergency, Chicago Police will assume control of this gate.

  • How many security officers patrol the campus at any given time? Are there more in the daytime? Are they always in vehicles?

Security has one person during the day. In an emergency, all maintenance personnel assist. There are two guards in the evening who patrol both in cars and on foot. They have prescribed routes that are governed electronically.

  • Is there a system of electronic monitoring? If these are taped, are they reviewed?

There are really two systems. Our camera system covers the fence line and is watched internally and externally 24 hours a day. There are more internal and external cameras all over the campus. These are accessed by many people on their computers. ID badges serve in many ways as a second system. They are a physical sign of someone belonging on campus, either staff or resident. For staff, they serve as the way to “punch in.” Over the past five years, we have been moving to electronic door locks, beginning with exterior door then interior doors. Each badge is controlled. This system also keeps a record of who accessed and at what time. This system will continue to be expanded. One such expansion has been to camera the bus stop for added staff safety.

  • What is the relationship between the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and Misericordia?

We have an exceptionally good relationship with CPD. We are regularly in communication with the district, and we are currently in the process getting our camera system attached to the local police station and the 911 center. The Watch Commander would reach out to Father Jack or another administrator if there were an issue in the neighborhood. We would immediately go to them if there was an issue on campus. You will often see CPD on our campus as we invite them to park here while doing their reports etc. The department is very accommodating to our needs, especially during Fest.

  • Within each residence, are there special drills conducted periodically?

There are drills and trainings that take place in all residential and programming areas.

These include not only fire and disaster drills, but special drills for behavior, choking and CPR. Lockdown and active shooter drills are also conducted. We also do drills with the city of Chicago for large public emergencies. Through participation in these, we are provided with not only various scenarios to work through, but exposure to public safety personnel to help us.

  • Does the Chicago Fire Department conduct campus-wide drills?

The Fire Department is regularly on campus. They come whenever a fire alarm is pulled, for whatever reason. They have also helped us during times of power outages, and in finding missing residents, especially in severe weather conditions. They have also conducted training exercises on campus.

  • Is there a published manual of emergency policies and procedures to be followed by staff?

Our emergency policies are available in all areas. And, ensuring safety and security continues to be a work in progress. Kudos to Denise Tigges and Carol Hawley who are coordinators of this work.