DECATUR—Richland Community College is the first community college in the state to receive the Ready to Respond Campus designation from the Illinois Emergency Management Agency.

During spring 2013, Richland along with eight other colleges and universities, participated in the IEMA's Ready to Respond Campus pilot program, an initiative to enhance emergency safety measures at institutions of higher education.

Since the program's implementation in February, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Richland are the only institutions to receive the designation.

During the college's regular Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday, security director Aarron Cook said the IMEA is using Richland's emergency plan as a benchmark for other colleges and universities. He added that to meet the agency's high standards, they adopted the National Incident Management System and expanded campus outreach programs to include domestic violence and sexual assault awareness.

“This allows us to be recognized as an institution that meets rigorous standards with ensuring campus safety,” he said. “We wanted our security department to go from a diamond in the rough to a crown jewel.”

Board Chairman Bruce Campbell said with security becoming more of a priority for colleges and universities, the designation emphasizes Richland's commitment to providing a safe environment and showcases to other communities the accomplishments occurring in Decatur.

Also during the meeting, board secretary David Cooprider recognized Leonard Everett Belote, founding dean for instruction at the college, who died June 29 at age 92.

Cooprider recounted the first time he met Belote when he was interviewing for a position at the newly established college. To save time, Belote decided to interview him in his vehicle en route to Springfield.

“If he could do two things at once he would, and if he could do them at 75 miles per hour, all the better,” Cooprider said.

The board also approved more than $300,000 in expenditures including equipment for the Fitness Center and Medium Heavy Truck program as well as furniture for the Culinary Arts Institute restaurant Bistro 537.

rrodgers@herald-review.com|(217) 421-6949

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