03/30/08 — Wayne Community College tests emergency plan with mock 'shooting'

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Wayne Community College tests emergency plan with mock 'shooting'

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 30, 2008 2:00 AM

Wayne Community College was in lockdown for more than three hours Thursday as staff and more than 65 representatives from emergency agencies participated in a mock crisis exercise on the campus.

The staged event allowed the college to put into practice its crisis management plan.

Call it an insurance policy.

"With any crisis management plan, it's important to put into action those first steps," said Dr. Kay Albertson, WCC president. "We wanted to see if the pieces that we have in the plan are suitable pieces. We wanted to test our own written plan."

With instances like the shootings at Columbine High School and Virginia Technical College still fresh in many people's minds, emergency preparedness is a necessity. And on a multi-building campus like Wayne Community, it proved to be a great opportunity to enact its efforts, officials said.

"Even playing it, even though it's not real, you really do get to see what all the individual players do," Dr. Albertson said.

This past week was chosen for the enactment because the college was on spring break and classes were not in session. Still, there were a lot of staff members and even some visitors on the campus, officials said.

Even though it was a simulation, Dr. Albertson attested to the portrayal's realism. Additional security cameras recently installed on campus allowed her and others to watch some of the crisis as it unfolded.

And while consciously officials knew it wasn't real, the president said it nevertheless "made your hair stand on end" when a masked gunman appeared on camera.

Portraying an estranged husband, he entered a classroom in the Walnut Building, shooting his "wife," a professor, and a short while later, turning the gun on himself.

It allowed college security and other officials to simulate a call to 911 and put lockdown into practice. Then came the area's First Responders, including Goldsboro police and its SWAT and canine teams, Sheriff's Office, fire department and an array of other emergency personnel.

Buildings were evacuated, the situation assessed and crime scene investigators took over.

From every indication, the exercise went well, Dr. Albertson said.

An informal briefing took place Thursday afternoon, with plans for further discussion next week.

"We'll get together and look at our strengths and weaknesses," she said.

Much preparation went into the exercise, she added. The college's Basic Law Enforcement Training and criminal justice instructors did a stellar job, as did the county's emergency workers.

"It was a great opportunity for people to talk with each other and certainly a great learning opportunity for us," Dr. Albertson said.