|A team of NCCU and Durham Police enters Rush Residence Hall in the emergency drill on Jan. 3.|
It was scary and realistic, but it was just a drill. A disaster unfolded on the campus of North Carolina Central University on Thursday, Jan. 3 –gunshots, casualties, a hostage siege, reports of planted bombs and grenades, a massive law enforcement response.
But again: It was a simulation. No one got hurt.
The all-day emergency training exercise involved more than 250 participants and more than two dozen public safety agencies from around the state in the largest such drill ever held on a UNC system campus.
The exercise, named Operation Eagle Swoop, included role players in an active shooter scenario at the center of the campus, hostage negotiations in two residence halls and a rescue phase that included treatment of simulated victims to area hospitals. The sound of sporadic gunfire — with simulated ammunition — was heard across the campus for more than an hour starting about 9:20 a.m., and occasionally after that into the early afternoon.
NCCU Police Sgt. Robert McLaughlin, the university’s emergency management coordinator, said the aim of the exercise was to test the capabilities and preparedness of the NCCU Police and emergency response team, and their ability to coordinate with other law enforcement and emergency agencies, particularly those of the city and county of Durham.
Spring semester classes do not begin until next week, so the campus was empty except for some faculty and staff.
“Having a campus that was essentially closed gave us the opportunity to stage a major training event,” said McLaughlin, who works extensively with other crisis managers as a member of the North Carolina Tactical Officers Association. “This is a chance to test our incident command system, coordination between agencies and different radio frequencies, and coordination among police, fire departments and emergency medical teams.”
By the time the all-clear signal was given about 1:30 p.m., two victims were pretend-dead, 10 people with simulated injuries had been taken to Duke Hospital for “treatment,” and two camouflage-clad “suspects” were in police custody.
One unusual aspect of the exercise was its duration. McLaughlin noted that an actual active-shooter incident typically ends within 10 to 15 minutes once police arrive with an arrest, a shooting by police or a suicide.
At a briefing afterward, participants expressed broad agreement that the exercise had been useful, and provided some lessons on how various agencies can better cooperate and collaborate in emergency situations.
“Managing the incident is key,” said Sgt. Eric Preddy of the Raleigh Police Department’s Training Division. “This exercise helped provide resources to help manage a similar incident should it occur.”