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Thursday, December 4, 2008

UNCP tests response against ‘active shooter’ in exercise

The University of North Carolina at Pembroke conducted a drill on October 10 to test its response to an “active shooter” on campus.

SWAT - The SWAT team of the Robeson County Sheriff’s Department was on hand.

SWAT - The SWAT team of the Robeson County Sheriff’s Department was on hand.

Black Line

The simulation was staged during Fall Break to minimize confusion and involved state and local law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel. UNCP Police Chief McDuffie Cummings served as the incident commander for the simulation that was conducted under the watchful eye of UNCP’s consulting company, EnviroSafe.

After an actor posing as a gunman entered O.R. Sampson Academic Building at 9:25 a.m. and shot three student-actors, Chief Cummings summoned first responders and Chancellor Allen C. Meadors called his executive staff together to serve as a crisis management team in Lumbee Hall.

As a team of UNCP police swept the building, test emergency messages, including text, email, phone and Internet, bombarded campus. A hostage situation ensued, campus was sealed and an incident command post and law enforcement staging areas were established.

EnviroSafe’s Chip Ferguson, who played the role of the shooter, said “live” drills like this one are the best way to prepare for an actual incident.

“First of all, it went real well today,” Ferguson said at a meeting afterwards. “I put them through a lot today, and I think everybody learned a lot.

“Doing this in real time is the best way,” he said.

The staged event followed Homeland Security and University goals, said EnviroSafe’s Kevin Dull, who led the post-event evaluation.

“It was evident that a lot of planning went into this,” Dull said. “I thought you had an excellent exercise. It was conducted professionally.”

David Holder, another EnviroSafe evaluator, said University police had a good day.

“Chief Cummings is to be commended for the way his department performed,” Holder said. “He conducted himself calmly and in a relaxed and natural manner.”

Campus Police Chief MacDuffie Cummings was incident commander for the exercise. Derrick Locklear and Ed Strickland look on.

Campus Police Chief MacDuffie Cummings was incident commander for the exercise. Derrick Locklear and Ed Strickland look on.

Black Line

Speed in responding is paramount, Dull said, and “I understand you responded very quickly.” He also praised University administration, including psychologist Dr. Monica Osburn and counselor Mark Schwarz of the Counseling and Testing Center, for providing timely information about the shooter and hostages.

Responding to the call were Pembroke Police and Fire Departments, the Robeson County Sheriff’s Department and its SWAT team, North Carolina Highway Patrol and the State Bureau of Investigation, Pembroke Township Volunteer Fire Department, the Robeson County Rescue Squad and the North Carolina Department of Community Corrections.

University and Community Relations, led by Vice Chancellor Dr. Glen Burnette Jr., coordinated the exercise.

“UNCP’s first-ever Active Shooter Exercise was a great success,” Dr. Burnette said. “Campus safety is a top priority at UNC Pembroke and exercises like this one help the University community prepare itself in the unlikely event of a similar crisis on its campus.”

Besides Dr. Burnette and Chancellor Meadors, the crisis management team consisted of Provost Dr. Charles Harrington, Neil Hawk, vice chancellor for Business Affairs, Dr. Diane Jones, vice chancellor for Student Affairs, Jackie Clark, vice chancellor for Enrollment Management, Joshua Malcolm, University attorney, and Bob Orr, associate vice chancellor for Information Technology.

Observers came from UNC General Administration, Fayetteville State University, UNC Wilmington and UNC Greensboro.

Emergency communications functioned smoothly including the “blue light” emergency telephone that alerted Campus Police of a shooter. Also employed was the City Watch emergency campus telephone notification system and PIER (Public Information Emergency Response System), which posts message to the Web and sends mass text, email and media alerts and powers a chat room for the response team.

The staged hostage stand-off, with student-actors portraying themselves and a faculty member, ended through negotiations after approximately four hours.

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