AURORA, Colo. - By definition, emergencies are unexpected, not planned. But we also know that expecting the unexpected and planning responses for possible scenarios can be critical in minimizing harm.
The CU Denver l Anschutz Medical Campus Emergency Preparedness team has guided development of critical response plans -- that includes staging drills to educate faculty, staff and students such as the activity conducted August 5 with the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
More than two dozen faculty, staff and students were assigned roles in half-a-dozen threatening scenarios involving disgruntled students armed with mock weapons. In each segment, the 'actors' were instructed to escalate the threats, one scenario involved holding hostages.
The other participants who played themselves -- employees doing their daily work and Campus Police -- had to decide their personal and professional response to the threats.
'What would you do?'
"These exercises are about getting people to think about 'What should I do,'" said Stu Pike, who leads the University's Emergency Preparedness effort. "Do I shelter in place or do I leave the scene? It's important for the participants to decide for themselves whether or not they attempt to leave the scene during the drill."
Participant Lisa Trujillo found the drills very thought-provoking. "I learned some things in the initial scenarios, and then in the final one, I really felt an adrenalin rush when i tried to hide in the closet to escape the gunman."
Pike said running similiar drills in quick succession is designed to give participants time to explore responses that they feel comfortable with.
After each scenario played out, the group gathered to discuss perceptions and reactions.
Numerous questions came up in the debriefing discussions about calling for help, notifying others in the building of potential danger and whether or not to use the panic button that silently sends an alert to Campus Police.
As the events wrapped up, Campus Police officers emphasized, "if there's ever a situation when there's a question or fear of threat, never hesitate to call for help." On the Anschutz Medical Campus when dialing 911 from a desk phone, the call goes directly to Campus Police. Dialing 911 on a cell phone will be directed to the nearest local law enforcement agency.
Other departments within the University interested in similiar drills are encouraged to contact the Emergency Preparedness Team Stu.Pike@ucdenver.edu or Essi.Ellis@ucdenver.edu.