Safety officials at UNC conducted an emergency drill Monday morning on Manning Drive, with the help of a hired firm that staged a traffic accident, with an added hazard.
“Today’s scenario was specific to a chemical spill,” said Chief Jeff McCracken, director of UNC Public Safety. “It involved a traffic accident on Manning Drive, with a bus, and a small spill. Of course, at the outset of the incident, there was no way to determine the size of the spill or any of those things, so that had to be taken into account.”
it’s the type of drill that UNC conducts around campus every so often, to test the university’s efficiency in dealing with emergencies.
The day, location and general time frame for the mock emergency was announced well in advance. People knew that a section of Manning Drive near Ridge Road would be closed between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday for the drill.
But that’s all. Nobody knew exactly what time it would occur, or what kind of emergency it would be. Those details were kept secret, as always, by planners from Envirosafe, a risk-and-crisis management firm hired by UNC, as in the past.
At a Monday afternoon news conference in the Student Union, McCracken said the mock accident was announced shortly after 9 a.m.
“We tried to simulate how it would actually happen in real life, as much as we could” said McCracken. “So we started it with a text message, which is part of our emergency communications process. So that text message went out around 9:15.”
A teleconference convened at 9:30, and McCracken provided emergency responders with a description of the scene, and the possible hazards. Groups were instructed to take their assigned posts at 10 a.m.
The teams then worked on managing the fake crisis throughout the morning.
McCracken said that an After-Action Report will be completed at some time in the near future, with a summary of any issues that came up, and suggestions for improvements.
But for now, McCracken said he was pleased overall with how the drill was handled.
“I would say, that, in almost every exercise like this, communication is an area that needs to be focused on,” he said.