Emergency Drill Tests University's Response Systems
By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
March 26, 2008
Photo by Perry Smith.
It started with 25 students protesting the war. Within a half hour, the number
doubled and things escalated from there. Bottles and rocks were thrown. A fire
broke out. Gas canisters were detonated.
The good news is none of that actually happened. It was all just a test exercise
played out during emergency training conducted at UNH last week.
For three days, university officials including President Mark Huddleston and
Provost Bruce Mallory, as well as fire and police personnel, participated in
an emergency training session designed for colleges and universities.
The first two days of the workshop provided an overview on common issues of
critical incidents that might occur on a college campus, followed by an outline
of the responsibilities of responders.
On the last day, UNH employees were presented with a crisis scenario aimed
at testing what they had learned. Creating a mock crisis allowed participants
to confront problems that could arise while trying to resolve a real life conflict.
After the initial scene was set—officials learned the day before that
students were planning an anti-war demonstration—employees role-played
what their jobs would be and how they would interact with other university
and town departments during a “live” event.
Most of the activity took place in the simulated command center where incident
commander UNH Police Chief Nicholas Halias was in charge. Participants were
divided by task: operations, logistics, intelligence, planning, finance administration
and public information.
A second room housed the Emergency Operation Center (EOC). For the purpose
of the exercise, a model city representing the university grounds was situated
in a third room. From that site, emergency responders relayed information via
radios and cell phones to the command center and the EOC.
The scenario of the mock critical incident was launched with the report of
25 students gathering in the quad for a nonviolent protest of the Iraq war.
As more students joined, the group tensions grew. Every few minutes, participants
were fed additional information that complicated the situation and called for
further decisions to be made: someone was injured; a chemical canister was
set off; 20 students chained themselves together in Thompson Hall outside the
president’s office; a fire broke out; 200 students were relocated to
the Whittemore Center.
Again, none of this actually happened but university representatives and officials
had to respond as though it had.
In the EOC, decisions were made regarding possible cancellation of classes,
whether or not to close the university, how to get food and clothing to the
students at the Whittemore Center if they should be there for any length of
time, and how to help maintain public safety.
During the next couple of hours, public information officers held periodic
press conferences to update the media.
Training was conducted by volunteers who are members of college and university
police departments around the country.
"The effectiveness of any community’s response to emergencies is
not only based in its planning but the level of training its policy makers
and first responders have to execute the plans,” said Paul Dean, UNH
deputy chief of police. “UNH senior management and campus first responders
are leading the way in campus preparedness."