Are you as safe as you can be at work?

Ankeny Dl imageActive shooter. Those are two words we’ve become far too accustomed to in American culture and around the world. With senseless acts of violence like the Paris attacks, the reality of our world is forcing agencies like the Iowa Department of Transportation to take a close look at our facilities and how we can protect our employees and customers. With safety as one of our core values, it makes sense to take a critical look at the security of the places where we come to work every day.

Last year, staff from Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department began working with Iowa DOT’s Motor Vehicle Division staff to assess the security of the 18 driver’s license stations and the MVD headquarters in Ankeny.

For the assessment in Ankeny, the local police department joined the tour to discuss Iowa DOT staff concerns and familiarize themselves with the building. The same was done with the Des Moines police at the Iowa DOT facility at River Place. Paul Steier, director of the Iowa DOT’s Bureau of Investigations, is leading the effort for the agency. He said, “It was important to include local law enforcement in the walk through. We were able to provide them with blue prints of our facilities so if there is an emergency, they have that information. They were also able to assist us with mapping out escape routes.”

Ames DL stationEach Iowa DOT driver’s license facility was evaluated and an emergency plan was created for that building. Steier said, “We are now looking at the evaluations and will follow up with issues that have been identified. One update we are working toward in our driver’s license stations is to equip all of them with ‘panic buttons’ that our staff can use to alert law enforcement if there is an issue.”

In Ankeny, the group looked at who had access to each area of the building and steps were taken to better manage who has access. A recent renovation moved several conference rooms from a secluded part of the basement to the second floor, where many of our employees work. Since there is now a greater potential for people outside the agency to be on that floor attending meetings, the MVD management has a renewed emphasis on employee training to protect documents that include private information.  

Pelase take a ticketSteier said, “There is always a balance with what is reasonable to give access to our buildings yet provide security for our employees and customers. We can’t protect against everything, but the building assessments did point out things we can do that will limit the threat from an active shooter. In some cases, we probably would not have considered these things in the past.”

In addition to the building assessments, the Office of Motor Vehicle Enforcement staff and local law enforcement held active shooter trainings with employees at driver’s license stations across Iowa. Steier said, “This gave employees the opportunity to ask questions. The training was recorded and will be shown to new employees to assure the safety of our employees and customers into the future.”

During the training, law enforcement stressed that each person has a responsibility to take action. You can’t wait for law enforcement. Action steps to protect yourself include:

  • Be on alert for suspicious activity, be mentally prepared for what might occur if a situation arises, and know escape routes.  
  • Evacuate the area if an active shooter situation occurs.
  • Lockdown. If you can’t evacuate, securely protect yourself from harm.
  • Inform authorities and co-workers. Get help on the way.
  • Be prepared to defend yourself.

Safety upcoming events


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