The Daily Tar Heel

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Monday March 27th

Mock shooters help UNC system plan for emergencies

After UNC-Pembroke held a drill last year to test the university’s response to a shooter on campus, school officials decided that sending text messages to alert students wasn’t enough warning.

The school has since put in place sirens to use in the event of emergencies, said McDuffie Cummings Jr., UNC-Pembroke’s police chief.

“We learned that we had to take our notification system up one more step,” Cummings said.

Shooting Drills

The UNC system has asked all schools to conduct emergency preparedness drills to test responses to active shooters on campus.

Five schools — UNC-Pembroke, Elizabeth City State University, UNC-Greensboro, N.C. A&T State University and Western Carolina University — have already conducted shooter drills.

The remaining schools are expected to conduct drills by the end of June. UNC-Chapel Hill will conduct its drill on Wednesday.

Fourteen schools have conducted “tabletop” exercises, which bring together school officials, local law enforcement, emergency staff and others to review participants’ roles in reacting to a shooter on campus.
UNC-Chapel Hill will hold a similar drill off-campus on Wednesday. The UNC system asked all of its campuses to conduct shooter drills following the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech, when a gunman killed 32 people.

UNC-Chapel Hill will be the sixth campus to hold a full-scale drill. Fourteen campuses have held what system officials call “tabletop exercises,” which bring together school officials, local law enforcement and other participants to examine responses to emergency situations.

The system has contracted with Graham, N.C.-based EnviroSafe Consulting and Investigations Inc. to conduct the drills.

Schools have been asked to hold the tests before the end of June, said Brent Herron, associate vice president of campus safety and emergency operations for the UNC system.

N.C. Agricultural and Technical State University conducted a drill in March in which two gunmen “shot” students — actors from the school’s theater department — and held others hostage in a classroom.

“It was the first time we had done a drill that was so comprehensive. It was as if something had actually happened,” said Mable Scott, spokeswoman for the university.

“After looking at what has happened on other campuses across the country, it was a very wise decision.”

A gunman killed six people during a 2008 shooting at Northern Illinois University, and three faculty members were killed earlier this year at the University of Alabama-Huntsville.

Scott said N.C. A&T began alerting students and community members about the drill weeks in advance using local news organizations, social media, listservs and other methods.

“The common denominator is the communications aspect of these exercises,” Herron said.

During a drill at Elizabeth City State University in 2008, a mock gunman burst into a classroom in which neither the students nor the professor knew the event was a test.

Anthony Brown, vice chancellor for student affairs at ECSU, said the school held another drill last month and it went smoothly.

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