Friday, December 4, 2009

Emergency Response “Exercise” Important Step for University

Guest blog by Lisa A. Patterson
Shortly after the holiday break (Jan. 5), a full-scale emergency response exercise will be held on the UNC Charlotte campus. The simulation, sponsored by the Risk Management, Safety and Security Department in conjunction with Homeland Security, will include staff from many University departments, campus and local police, the fire department, local hospitals and other first-responders.

The live-action exercise will simulate an “active shooter” situation in which one or more gunmen open fire and/or take hostages. First responders and those involved in UNC Charlotte’s emergency response teams will react to the exercise as they would in the event of an actual emergency.

I fear that referring to the planned event as an “exercise” somehow diminishes its importance — the use of the word allows us to tune out. We might be tempted to nod in agreement with the plan, happy that the UNC General Administration is serious about campus safety — serious enough to contract with a consulting firm to design and coordinate this type of simulation for each campus in the system. If we’re not directly involved in the exercise, we might forget about it and go on with our business.

But the safety of the campus community is dependent upon the vigilance of all its members, and survival in an active shooter situation is largely dependent upon the mental preparation and prior knowledge by the individuals involved. Research has shown that individuals who have received even minimal training to deal with potentially deadly situations react much differently (and with more success) than those who’ve never received instruction.

On Jan. 5 the majority of the campus will not be involved in the exercise because, in order for the exercise to be effective, it has to be somewhat controlled. However, campus safety should be a priority of every student, faculty and staff member. Even if you aren’t a participant in the exercise, you can take steps to enhance your personal safety. Video resources are available through business continuity department. They may be checked out by individuals or groups and are ideal for viewing at team meetings. The videos, which also can be viewed online, are:
• “Shots Fired on Campus” provides strategies for dealing with an active shooter situation in the workplace.
• “Campus Safety 101,” which is primarily a security awareness video course for college and university students, but it contains relevant information for faculty and staff.
• “Flashpoint – Workplace Violence” deals with identifying and addressing “behaviors of concern” early as the best way to prevent violence in the workplace.
• “Stay Safe at College” is an instructional video that covers topics in seven separate chapters, such as protection of personal property, identity theft, assaults, stalking, travel and common-sense measures of protection in adverse situations. While it is oriented toward students, it is relevant for faculty and staff.

Students, staff and faculty can access these videos online, by contacting the information technology services department at 704-687-7027.

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Lisa A.Patterson is a writer in UNC Charotte's Office of Public Relations