The now-decommissioned Walker and Dunn-Barton residence halls have seen their share of damage from students over the years. Chipped paint, broken light fixtures, the odd hole in the wall. However, during late May and early June, Walker and Dunn-Barton halls were trashed by real professionals. Firefighters and police officers used the buildings to practice emergency response techniques.
After crews removed asbestos and many of the internal fixtures in the buildings, the structures were turned into training areas for police SWAT maneuvers, firefighting tactics, collapsed structure rescue techniques, arson dog training and fire scene investigation. Police training in late May resulted in paint splotches from simulated ammunition in hallways and rooms, smoke damage and broken doors.
On May 29, University Police and other law enforcement agencies, the Normal Fire Department and Illinois State University personnel took part in a full-scale emergency response drill which simulated an active shooting situation in a residence hall. The drill allowed participants to work in a coordinated fashion and practice response measures and crisis communication plans.
Arson investigation dogs and their handlers practiced their skills in several smoke-filled Walker Hall rooms during the first week in June. Later in the month, the Normal Fire Department took over Dunn-Barton Hall for one very smoky week. Firefighters burned old wooden pallets and straw in a number of rooms to simulate large structure fires. The culmination of that week was the engineered collapse of one corner of Dunn-Barton Hall to simulate a collapsed building rescue situation. Emergency crews worked over a 24-hour period to practice shoring up the structure and performing search and rescue operations for simulated victims in the rubble. By the end of the week most of the windows were missing from Dunn-Barton Hall and the outside of the building was blackened by smoke. A large sign was posted telling pedestrians that the fire damage was intentional, and that the building was scheduled for demolition. This was no doubt a comfort to Preview students, and their parents, as they looked ahead to residence hall life in the fall.
Aside from the haze of smoke that hung over campus during the week-long fire training in Dunn-Barton Hall, the emergency exercises had little impact on traffic flow or University operations. The exercises were a valuable opportunity for police and firefighters to conduct training in large multi-story buildings, without worrying about the damage that could result. The training exercises were also a way for the old residence halls to serve one more purpose before being razed to make way for the new Student Fitness and Kinesiology/Recreation Center.