University of West Georgia Performs Active Shooter Drill

Monday, August 19, 2013

The University of West Georgia believes in the importance of being prepared for a variety of circumstances, including a wide-range of crisis situations. On Monday, August 19, 2013, UWG performed an active shooter drill to test the responsiveness and procedures of University Police, Counseling, Communications and Marketing, Health Services and Residence Life.

The drill involved several phases meant to test each division. University Police responded to a mock call from an “active shooter” located in a campus residence hall. The location enabled Residence Life to be involved in the drill and to respond as if it were an actual emergency situation within a student residence. Volunteers not only served as physical and psychological victims, but also served to attempt to distract or hinder the University Police officers. The responding officers were not aware of the details of the drill and were forced to make decisions and respond while in action and on-site.

“When responding to an active shooter, the police officers have multiple tasks,” said Tom Mackel, chief of University Police. “The primary one is stopping the shooter, but we also coordinate bringing in the resources to treat the victims that have been physically and emotionally wounded. The drill allows our officers to practice their response in stopping the perpetrator but also how to assist in rendering aid to the injured. The university is fortunate to have our own health facility and counselors who can provide emergency assistance to victims while we are waiting for outside emergency medical support to arrive. We need to drill to ensure that all of the units work together to maximize our response.”

During the drill, volunteers placed mock phone calls to University Police and to Communications and Marketing. The callers posed as concerned parents, alarmed students, community members and members of the press in order to create a realistic scenario for the departments.

“I applaud Chief Mackel for proactively initiating the disaster drill held on the UWG campus today,” said Jami Bower, associate vice president of UWG Communications and Marketing. “This sort of exercise helps UWG prepare for quick and effective action to protect its students, faculty, staff, campus visitors and community neighbors and tests UCM staff responsiveness in communicating key messaging to all constituencies. We embrace these opportunities for identifying areas of improvement and effectiveness.”

The volunteers serving as physical victims were given cards describing their injuries and were treated with moulage, a type of make-up to display mock injuries. This allowed the Health Services team to truly practice response in a crisis situation.

“The disaster drill is important in preparing and then testing our ability to support the university on a number of critical situations,” said Dr. Leslie Cottrell, director of UWG Health Services. “We welcome these opportunities to hone our skills as a healthcare team.”

Psychological volunteers also served to portray the intense impact of a crisis situation. Lisa Adams, director of UWG Counseling and Career Development, describes the importance of being prepared to provide psychological care in a crisis.

“The disaster drill is imperative for Counseling & Career Development staff,” she said. “Counselors are trained in a number of treatment modalities, crisis response is one of them. Over the last two years we have written and refined our emergency response plan. This drill allows us to test our procedures and our training. All of the staff has been trained in federal and state emergency response structures and in psychological first aid and debriefing. This gives us an opportunity to adapt the plan for the situation and make changes as necessary moving forward. Knowing that one can perform in stressful situations is paramount to successful response.”

Each division used the drill to learn new ways to improve and quicken procedures regarding a crisis. UWG will continue to plan more disaster drills in an effort to stay fully prepared in case of an emergency.