Convocation Center has shelter plan for emergencies


The NIU Convocational Center is more than a venue for parties and sporting events. The Convocational Center also serves as a safe meeting place for students and the DeKalb community during emergency situations.

By Brian Singer

While the Convocation Center is home to concerts, job fairs and basketball games, it is also home to emergency response efforts.

Natural disasters and major crimes in the community are all included under the umbrella of the Convocation Center’s state-wide leadership in emergency management initiatives.

“We work a lot of on the local level with the police, fire department and NIU to develop regional state-wide work to create a better shelter plan in case of an emergency,” said Chris Kostelec, the event and security manager of the Convocation Center.

For the past five years, the Convocation Center has been part of an incident management team (IMT) composed of the DeKalb fire and police departments.

The IMT started in 2007 when members of the Convocation Center, DeKalb police and fire department realized they needed each other often to provide assistance, and they wanted to establish a kind of unity, Kostelec said. They needed to work together when faced with emergencies.

“We were working together and realized that we weren’t cohesive, but had a good product,” Kostelec said. “We wanted to form a team that works together during disasters.”

Convocation Center Director Norm Jenkins said keeping everyone on the same page during pressing emergencies can be hard.

“Efforts have helped the university open lines of communication between local emergency management organizations,” Jenkins said. “Sound planning and interaction have streamlined and made more effective our ability to respond to emergencies.”

The Convocation Center’s collaborative efforts allowed them to aid emergency response organizations during the Feb. 14, 2008, shootings and the 2010 investigation of Antinette “Toni” Keller’s death.

“We take the lead to work with local response,” Kostelec said. “We helped provide the vehicles, light rigs and supply stuff that they needed.”  

The logistical support the Convocation Center helped provide came from a relationship that developed with the DeKalb police and fire department.

“I’m lucky enough to be on a first name basis with chiefs in the area,” Kostelec said. “Whenever I need someone, I know I’m talking to a friend.”