ECU conducts emergency drill
During an emergency planning drill, police responded as if a shooter had hostages at White Residence Hall.
(May 18, 2010)
East Carolina University tested its emergency response abilities May 18 with a full-scale planning drill.
The drill, required for all UNC system institutions, was designed to prepare staff members and law enforcement officers to respond to a crisis.
Chancellor Steve Ballard praised the drill as a success. “There was excellent communication between groups,” Ballard said. “This is part of an ongoing effort to make ECU as safe as we possibly can.”
ECU’s drill centered on an active shooter who took hostages. The exercise, which involved more than 100 people, played out between 7:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. in and around White Residence Hall on the west end area of the main campus.
“This was an exercise and learning opportunity for all of us,” ECU Police Chief Scott Shelton said. “But I was very impressed with the collaborative work between the agencies — EMS, police departments, sheriff’s office, and the ECU infrastructure. Everyone came together, shared and contributed.”
Emergency response began after 9:16 a.m., when simulated shots were heard fired at the residence hall. From there, the campus community was notified through multiple measures that the drill had begun. Announcements were made over an outdoor speaker system and electronic alerts via e-mail, phone, computer and campus televisions.
As part of the practice scenario, officers quickly learned that a shooter had holed up on the 10th floor with hostages. Casualty reports, mirroring a real-life situation, were unclear.
In the hours that followed, negotiators worked with the shooter to secure release of the hostages. Once they were deemed safe, police entered the building and “neutralized” the suspect. In all, eight victims were wounded and three were killed — two victims died in the initial shooting while another died later.
The practice scenario was meant to be as realistic as possible. The shooter and his victims were played by volunteers. Law enforcement used simunitions, which are special cartridges often used in police training.
The drill involved many agencies including ECU and Greenville police, the Pitt County Sheriff’s Department, the N.C. Highway Patrol, Greenville Fire and Rescue, Pitt County Emergency Services and Pitt Emergency Management.
EnviroSafe Consulting and Investigations Inc., a Graham-based firm that the UNC General Administration contracted with to study and analyze university response, oversaw the drill. The company will issue a full report later, but Kevin Dull, president and chief executive officer, praised the university’s overall execution.
“You really paid attention to a lot of the details in a way we have not seen before,” Dull said at a debriefing after the exercise.
Bill Koch, associate vice chancellor for environmental health and campus safety, also praised the emergency response: “We hope never to go to this level, but it’s great to be ready.”