ECSU students work on 'what if it happened here?' exercise
By Reggie Ponder
Tuesday, October 10, 2017
While responding to last week’s deadly shooting rampage in Las Vegas with the question “what if it happened here?” might be just morbid curiosity for most people, it’s not for emergency management professionals.
Thinking “what if happened here?” is actually a practical skill that needs to be cultivated — and a class studying emergency management at Elizabeth City State University asked exactly that question on Wednesday.
After briefly viewing some video from the Las Vegas shooting that claimed 59 lives, including the shooter’s, the four students in Professor Kevin Kubietz’s introduction to emergency management class worked on a response plan for a scenario in which a similar live-shooter incident might occur at ECSU’s Roebuck Stadium during an event with 5,000 people present.
The exercise began with two ambulances and four emergency medical service personnel already on the scene, along with one fire truck manned by four firefighters and a total of six law enforcement officers present.
Student Cody Barber told other students that the first thing they needed to do was find the shooter, “because if we don’t find him he’s going to keep shooting.”
Students quickly determined they needed a SWAT team from the Elizabeth City Police Department. They also requested 20 additional EMS units, 20 additional law enforcement officers and every available fire truck in the area.
Kubietz, professor of emergency management, reminded students that in emergency management they would be looking at the big picture, and once officers were looking for the shooter they would turn their attention to the rest of the response.
“We don’t want to micromanage,” Kubietz said.
The immediate steps identified were to find and neutralize the shooter, triage and treat those wounded, evacuate everyone not injured, and be aware of anything that might be evidence.
Kubietz also the students that should always assume there is a secondary plan of attack — a second shooter, bomb planted on the scene or other plan intended to maximize the death toll.
That suggested to the students an additional response step: Call for a bomb squad.
A final step the students identified was to appoint a public information officer to communicate with the media and ensure that accurate information and appropriate warnings were conveyed to the public. For instance, the public should be warned to stay away from the area where the incident occurred, they said.
On hand for Wednesday’s exercise were Mike Sprayberry, director of the N.C. Division of Emergency Management, and Brian Falconer, the division’s assistant director, who according to Kubietz were visiting the campus to ensure “there’s a direct tie between the academics and the real world.”
Sprayberry commended the students for choosing a service-centered profession.
“It’s all about service to people,” he said.
Kubietz noted that ECSU and Western Carolina University currently have the only four-year emergency management programs in the state. ECSU’s emergency management curriculum is expected to be in full swing next fall, Kubietz said.
The central point of Wednesday’s exercise was “having a plan,” student Shavon Banks said after the class. Banks is one of four seniors in Kubietz’s class, all of whom are majoring in criminal justice.
“And always think outside the box,” added student DeTrejah Drayton. “You’ve got to think that anything could happen.”
Jasmine Cooper said the exercise reinforced for her how important it is to look at things from all angles, to have a plan and to make sure the plan is well executed.
Rickey Freeman, ECSU’s emergency management director, was on hand for exercise to answer technical questions about university buildings and the campus layout. Freeman said he enjoys being in the classroom for exercises such as the one on Wednesday.
“But now I’ve got to go back to my real work,” Freeman said.
That “real work” in recent weeks has been focused especially on preparations for ECSU Homecoming this weekend.
Freeman, a former emergency management director for Bertie County, said he has plans in place for all Homecoming-related activities.
“We make sure that if something happens we can get a response going immediately,” he said.
The university not only makes plans but also has regular drills to practice the plans, Freeman pointed out.
Kubietz said the whole purpose of Wednesday’s exercise was to teach the importance of having an emergency response plan to a crisis. He added that plans don’t really help if you don’t practice them, which is the reason drills are needed.