UNC Asheville Completes Multi-Agency Emergency Planning Exercise, July 19

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Law enforcement officers with many police cars in a UNC Asheville parking lot

UNC Asheville staged a full-scale emergency planning exercise on July 19, 2017, designed to give university staff, first responder agencies and Mission Health a chance to practice response and communication during a simulated violent incident on campus. UNC Asheville hosted the exercise in partnership with the Asheville Police Department, Asheville Fire Department, Buncombe County’s Offices of Emergency Services and EMS, Mission Health and EnviroSafe, a preparedness consulting firm.

As part of the exercise, more than 60 “victims” – volunteer role-players with make-up appearing like gunshot wounds and other serious injuries – were triaged and safely transported to Mission Hospital by ambulance and emergency transport bus. University staff worked to track the “victims,” contact the volunteer role-playing victims’ families, and reunite families later in the afternoon. As part of the exercise, the university also practiced how it would communicate with partner agencies, campus and the community, and how it would make decisions about resuming normal operations. More than 140 individuals volunteered during the exercise, and more than 200 university staff members and first-responders directly participated.

“It was gratifying to see that we were able to respond quickly and effectively, with all of the agencies communicating and coordinating well,” said David Weldon, UNC Asheville director of emergency management. “The university, first responders and Mission Health all worked together over several months to plan the exercise – that process and the exercise itself helps enable all of us to stay updated, in synch and able to respond effectively when necessary.”

UNC Asheville Assistant Police Chief Danny Moss (right) and Security Officer Trevor Goldsmith (facing) with simunitions equipment used in the exercise.The exercise scenario developed and conducted by EnviroSafe involved an actor – not pre-identified to law enforcement – role-playing an active threat or active shooting in an academic building. This challenged university police – first to arrive on the scene – to end the attack, using paintball-like “weapons” instead of real guns. Buncombe County deputy sheriffs and Asheville Police then searched and secured the area, making it safe for Asheville Fire Department and Buncombe County emergency and EMS workers to triage and transport the “victims.” When the role-players arrived at the hospital, this gave Mission Health an opportunity to practice handling an emergency room “surge” in the midst of a normal day with real-life patients already in surgery and receiving emergency care.

The July 19, 2017, emergency planning exercise is a key part of the UNC System’s effort to assess and enhance campus safety, and was supported by a grant from the UNC System General Administration.

UNC Asheville conducts tabletop and emergency preparation exercises, most on a smaller scale, at least twice a year to maintain readiness to handle emergencies ranging from weather events, to accidents, to confrontational or violent incidents, with the goal of protecting the lives and health of students, employees and the community. Students, faculty and staff receive emergency and severe weather notifications by text and email, with online updates at bulldogalert.unca.edu.

For more information, visit em.unca.edu.