TCL simulates school shooting during drill on Beaufort campus

mmcnab@beaufortgazette.comApril 18, 2013 

Members of the Beaufort Police Department, the Beaufort Fire Department and others participated in the simulation, which also tested the college's response time in following protocol as if a real emergency were taking place.

The scenario, coordinated by TCL criminal justice instructor Michael Ricks, featured a Beaufort police officer playing the shooter. Ricks, a former police chief and the chairman of the college's Safety and Business Continuity Committee, said the committee had planned the shooting scenario for nearly two years.

"It was a success today," he said. "It's important for the safety of the community that we continue to discuss what we need to do in these situations."

The exercise simulated a shooting and a hostage situation in two campus buildings. It started in the health sciences building shortly after 10 a.m., with JoLane Buss' surgical technology class playing the victims. Buss, a member of the college's safety committee, said her class knew the shooter would enter the classroom, but nothing about what he would do.

"He came into the classroom and didn't say a word," she said. "I didn't know he was going to fire caps."

Several students said they were startled when the shooter fired his weapon, which Ricks said was a starter gun similar to ones used in track races.

"It made us nervous," student Codi Rogers said. "I know there's crazies out there, so this was a good experience for us to learn what to do and how to react."

The scenario continued across campus at the admissions building. The police department's tactical squad entered and cleared the building. The exercise ended with the fire department coming to the aid of the "victims" in the health sciences building.

Some students walked the campus during the exercise -- one even tried to make a payment at the financial aid office as the "shooter" entered the building -- but Ricks said that in a real emergency, the college's text and call alert system would keep students from venturing outside. Part of the emergency plan would also entail shutting down the section of Ribaut Road that bisects the campus.

Ricks said the college's first emergency-response exercise wouldn't be its last. It has plans to practice evacuation in the event of a hurricane or chemical spill as the committee continues to revamp its emergency plan.

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