UNC Emergency Drill: A Traffic Wreck, a Bus and a Chemical Spill

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.


UNC To Perform Emergency Drill

On Monday, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m., UNC will perform an emergency drill on campus.

In the drill, there will be actors strategically placed throughout campus as victims and other involved individuals to simulate a real emergency. Uniformed responders behave as though it is a genuine emergency. Emergency vehicles and personnel can be found around Manning Drive, particularly close to the intersection with Ridge Road.

Randy Young of the UNC Department of Public Safety previews which roads near UNC campus will be involved in the duration of the drill.

“The roadways on campus that will be impacted by this emergency drill will be a small section of Manning Drive between the lower entrance to Skipper Bowles Drive and the Ridge Road intersection,” says Young.

Young states that most of what the drill will entail is unknown even to the emergency service teams, in order to emulate an actual emergency situation.

“It’s actually not disclosed,” Young says. “We’ve had tabletop sessions that will involve some kind of an alert, but a lot of this is something that is revealed to us as the drill unfolds.”

Other emergency services will be involved, Young says, as they would participate in kind in a real-life emergency scenario.

“Traditionally, other agencies are active participants in this,” says Young, “primarily because of the fact that in anything that rises to this level would impact and necessitate the cooperation and collaboration with other agencies in the area.”

For more on the drill, click here.


UNC Em. Drill Tests Law Enforcement Response

CHAPEL HILL – UNC conducted an emergency drill Wednesday morning simulating a shooting and hostage situation at Davis Library. The exercise brought together law enforcement from across Orange County, with the goal of testing their response procedures in the event of a real situation.

UNC DPS worked alongside the Chapel Hill Police Department, the Carrboro Police Department, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the Orange County Emergency Services, and the Chapel Hill Fire Department in the drill, shutting down much of Raleigh Street.

Actors portrayed gunmen, hostages and victims to simulate an actual emergency on campus. The drill began when campus police received a 911 call about shots fired in Davis Library just after 9 a.m. Officers arrived on the scene to find two suspects in the library. As the scenario unfolded throughout the day, 11 victims were involved, eight students and three staff members including one police officer, and five people had been taken hostage. Eventually, one suspect was fatally injured, and following negotiations with police, the other suspect was taken into custody. Roughly 170 people participated in the exercise.

Chief Jeff McCracken, Director of Public Safety at UNC, said that  communication is one of the most important factors in a crisis situation. He said it is essential for law enforcement to communicate internally between agencies, and also be able to relay information to the public.

“If this incident were to happen at this time of year, the residence halls aren’t occupied by regular students, most are occupied by campers. So we had to figure out the effect that had on our ability to communicate with families,” McCracken said.

McCracken said that even when they have an all-hazards plan in place, changing conditions can make its implementation difficult at times.

“So that was something that we had to work through today which was helpful because we will always have a robust season every year, and we have to be able to deal with that,” he said.

Lieutenant Tom Twiddy of the UNC Department of Public Safety said events such as the shooting on the campus of Virginia Tech, and the Boston Marathon bombings make emergency preparedness critical.

“When other threatening incidents happen throughout the United States and the world, it puts more of an emphasis on making sure that we do this training and keep up-to-date on how we manage a crisis such as this,” Twiddy said.

UNC began doing drills like this after the Columbine shooting. The last real-life simulation drill took place at the Outdoor Education Center several years ago. They’ve also had in-house planning discussions, called “table-top drills,” where they come up with a scenario and then figure out how it would be handled.

“We work with them in theoretical situations, but really this is the best way to know how we are going to react and what roles people play if a real-life situation were to emerge,” said Randy Young, spokesman for UNC DPS.

Enviro Safe, a company that helps agencies in crisis preparedness, observed the drill and gave feedback following the exercise.  The company worked with Ron Campbell, UNC’s emergency management director, to set up the scenario.

Derrick Duggins, the Executive Director of Corporate Operations for Enviro Safe, said it is a success anytime a university and local law enforcement agencies come together to exercise their emergency plans and procedures.

“We’re very pleased at the turnout and the agencies that did participate in the exercise. Overall, the objectives that the planning team at UNC, as well as the community partners and our internal team, put together were met. We were able to evaluate the processes and plans in accordance with what the university wanted,” Duggins said.

Twiddy says emergency planning exercises are a key part of the University’s efforts to enhance campus safety.

“We’ll talk about it, and there will be some things we like and some things we can improve on, and that why we do the excises,” Twiddy said.

UNC will update its communication plans based on information learned during the emergency drills, as well as the tests of the emergency siren system conducted each semester.