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A Friday shooting at a vocational college in Louisiana is not the kind of news that Jim Spice, chief, UCCS Police Department, likes.
But Spice believes that in the tragedies at Louisiana Technical College, Virginia Tech and Colorado Springs’ New Life Church, there are lessons that can be learned. In Friday’s shootings, a 23-year-old woman killed two students and herself in an 8:30 a.m. rampage. Officers arrived within four minutes of the first 911 call, the smell of gunpowder still lingering in a second-floor hallway. Within an hour, the obscure technical college in Baton Rouge was national news.
Is UCCS prepared to respond to such an incident, no matter how unlikely it may seem?
Faculty and staff will have the opportunity to find out March 28 when UCCS, the City of Colorado Springs and El Paso County participate in a full-scale disaster exercise designed to test the university’s emergency response as well as its working relationships with other agencies. The exercise is a continuation of educational drills, ongoing since 2007. During winter break, safety officials conducted a smaller scale exercise involving various roundtable discussions of disaster scenarios. In January, UCCS launched a new emergency communication system.
While details of the March 28 simulated incident are being held closely, Spice knows they will require UCCS Police to coordinate closely with other public safety agencies including Colorado Springs Police, El Paso County Sheriff, Colorado Springs Fire Department and the El Paso County Office of Emergency Management. The definition of a full-scale exercise is that it will be as realistic as possible with equipment and personnel deployed as if it were a real event. Spice anticipates parking lots full of police cars and fire trucks as well as officers with simulated firearms working in the Science Building.
“You never want to believe something like this could happen,” Spice said. “But, in reality, if something like what happened at New Life or today at Louisiana Technical College happened here, we would need lots of help. Knowing how to get that help, and how to use it effectively, is vital to our success in dealing with a disaster.”
The exercise was purposely planned during spring break to minimize disruption to classes. But volunteers – faculty, staff, and students – will be needed to make the exercise as realistic as possible. A pre-exercise volunteer meeting is planned for 1 p.m. March 27 with a practice session at 3 p.m. The exercise on March 28 will begin at 6:30 a.m. and last until late afternoon.
Individuals interested in volunteering as role players should contact Tina Markowski, operations manager, Center for Homeland Security, firstname.lastname@example.org, 363-3274. Markowski is serving as logistics chief for the entry point exercise.