Contributing Writer

F&M’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) conducted an Armed Intruder Simulation on campus along with municipal law enforcement agencies and other emergency responders Thursday, March 14. The simulation was held to prepare DPS officers for the event of a possible emergency scenario.

Drills like this are strongly suggested by the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Homeland Security to colleges and universities as the best practice for preparing for potential armed intruder scenarios.

“We have conducted similar simulations to the one we held March 14 over the years,” said William McHale, director of DPS. “It really gave us an opportunity to hone our skills for responding and working together in the event of a true crisis.”

The exercise took place when most students were off-campus for Spring break, and the event lasted for two hours plus an additional hour to prepare.

The simulation included various real-life scenarios and complexities. For example, DPS officers participating in the drill notified the response team about a mock hostage scenario in which an individual with a weapon was said to be in a campus building. The participants received information as part of an initial report at the beginning of the exercise, and as the simulation progressed, they were given more information about the mock crisis.

Other components of the simulation incorporated the arrival of news media, the presence of bystanders, and the need for negotiation with the mock-perpetrator and, eventually, simulated casualties.

In addition to F&M’s Crisis Management Team, the simulation was conducted with external law enforcement agencies and emergency first-responders such as the Lancaster City Bureau of Police, Lancaster County Special Emergency Response Team, and local radio officials.

“These would be the same agencies involved in any emergency situation involving mass casualties,” McHale said.

Upon completion, the exercise was deemed a success.

“We accomplished exactly what we set out to do, which was to give us an opportunity to put into practice the action steps in the College’s emergency plan,” McHale said.

He added that DPS and the College will review the simulation and identify areas for improvement, just as they would for any training exercise.

“One thing we will refine in the future is our facility selection and notification procedure, in particular for faculty, staff, and students who remain on campus at a time when we might conduct an exercise like this,” McHale said.

Public Safety cannot provide details of their emergency response and protocols, as that can jeopardize the safety of the College, but the F&M community can be assured that the College has a detailed crisis management plan with defined action steps for a wide range of emergency scenarios, including armed intrusion.

“If there is one thing I want our community to understand, it is that the safety and security of our campus is our foremost priority,” McHale said.

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