Lessons learned from Catawba College active shooter drill

  • Posted: Wednesday, May 15, 2013 1:08 a.m.

It took months of planning for Monday’s active shooter drill at Catawba College, but the planning was worth it to test the college’s response to potential danger.

“We just wanted to do something that pulled resources and made us test and practice our procedures when responding to an emergency,” said college spokeswoman Tonia Black-Gold.

Volunteers from the college, multiple law enforcement and first responders participated in the exercise that operated primarily from the Hedrick administration building.

Black-Gold said the exercise came at the conclusion of classes and a few days after commencement exercises, but it allowed volunteers to conduct the drill in a more controlled environment.

“We learned how valuable our resources are and how interdependent we are on the responders in the community,” she said.

Black-Gold said even if there was a fire or other emergency, the college knows the responders will be there.

The college conducted a “tabletop” exercise a month before Monday’s drill to discuss what the college wanted the exercise to encompass.

There is a subcommittee of the Rowan County Department of Emergency Services that implements the exercises. There were about 65 people who participated in the drill on Monday including Black-Gold who watched and took notes from the incident command center. The command center was held at the college’s student center.

“An exercise like this pulls in so many resources,” Black-Gold said.

The Salisbury Fire Department, Rowan County EMS, Salisbury Police, Rowan Emergency Management Services, Rowan Rescue Squad, NuCare Ambulance Services, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office as well as Catawba College staff and public safety. Many of these organizations assisted in the Novant Health Rowan Medical active shooter drill in October.

The drill was also designed to help the college test its notification alerts during a crisis situation.

There were three alerts sent to personnel via voicemail, text and email that told campus officials about the drill. The first alert made it clear the notification was part of an exercise, she said.

“The alert said, ‘shots fired in Hedrick building, shelter in secure location or flee if able,” Black-Gold said.

The second message told campus personnel to continue to seek shelter as officers were clearing the building and the third message told officials the building was clear and they could resume normal activity.

The drill was followed by a debriefing, which Black-Gold said was helpful. She said the debriefing provided insight on why rescuers responded in the manner they did.

“We also learned that we are all in this together. Everybody has a role. We are very thankful that they were willing to help us go through this,” Black-Gold said.

Contact reporter Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253. Twitter: www.twitter.com/salpostpotts Facebook: www.facebook.com/Shavonne.SalisburyPost.

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