April 4, 2017
More than 40 senior officials and key personnel from East Carolina University and seven agencies in Greenville and Pitt County tested their ability to respond to a mass casualty event during an exercise on campus March 31.
The tabletop exercise was hosted by ECU’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety and included members of the university’s emergency management and crisis policy teams. It provided an informal setting to discuss a hypothetical active shooter situation on College Hill with a simultaneous report of a suspicious package near Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
“ECU tests emergency procedures on campus on a regular basis and part of that testing is done through scenario-style exercises,” said Lauren Mink, ECU’s emergency planner. “We want to be trained and prepared.”
Mink said this particular scenario was chosen because of an increase in mass casualties around the world that have involved an initial event followed by a secondary danger that made responding to the victims more complex for emergency personnel.
A small committee of ECU personnel led by Mink worked with a consulting firm to develop and facilitate the three-hour exercise.
The scenario portrayed the first 12 hours of a multi-agency response to an active shooter, including determining when areas on campus were safe and the logistics of treating and transporting a large number of injured people to the hospital. ECU representatives reviewed what resources would be available to make sure witnesses, students, staff, parents, employees, media and community members received the help and information they required.
“This type of exercise brings together the comprehensive group of community partners we would work with if a critical incident were to happen,” said Jason Sugg, interim chief of the ECU Police Department. “We can talk through the event to ensure that our systems are in place and determine what needs to be evaluated.”
ECU staff also were able to assess through the short and long-term effects of a mass casualty emergency on communication, housing, dining, counseling and transit services.
ECU senior Elijah Wood is completing an internship with the office of environmental health and safety and observed the exercise.
“You hope nothing like this happens but, as a student, I feel more reassured that ECU talks through these types of events with people from places like Vidant and other community partners,” said Wood.
ECU has previously hosted multi-agency exercises and regularly partners with local first responders in yearly training.
Pitt County Schools security specialist Jeff Hudson was able to incorporate into the scenario notification, lockdown and evacuation strategies of the public schools located near ECU’s campus which could come into play during an incident.
“This exercise is great. It increases communication between ECU and Pitt County Schools since we’re in the same neighborhood. We have to have that type of communication,” said Hudson.
Randy Gentry, deputy chief with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office said, “it’s good to have a plan and defined roles and to know what resources we have to share with each other.”
The scenario also put into play the use of ECU’s LiveSafe app which was introduced to campus last year. One of the app’s features allows users to discretely text directly with ECU Police in an emergency situation. Students, faculty and staff can download the free app at www.ecu.edu/LiveSafe.
Past live scenarios and tabletop exercises conducted at ECU have included responses to pandemics, power and information technology outages, hurricanes and active shooters.
For more information on how to respond during a campus emergency, visit www.ecu.edu/oehs.