Tech receives crash course in emergency training

April 30, 2008

by Kevin Sims

Sirens converge on a dormitory with a single goal: save as many lives as possible.

Members of every emergency department inside the parish move into action as soon as their vehicle stops.

Police officers in full riot gear hustle as a single entity to end the threat of violence. Paramedics race into the building separating those that need help from those that do not and those already beyond need of help.

Chaos is controlled by a select few inside a small white trailer. Chaos started by eight simple words: Test! Test! Test! This Is Only A Test!

Louisiana Tech’s University Police Department tested its emergency alert system last Thursday in conjunction with the fire department and local hospital’s mass casualty scenario certification training.

Replicating a shooting inside Caruthers Hall akin to the tragedy at Virginia Tech last year, the campus police sent out over 1,800 text messages, 10,000 e-mails and many more phone calls alerting the campus community during the test.

University Police Chief Randal Hermes said the test of the new system was a huge success.

“The emergency notification system, we believe, was very successful. We need a whole lot more participation by the students with signing up,” Hermes said.

“The Tech Alert will be informational and also keep the community informed on crime situations or other situations that we believe they would be interested in knowing.”

Hermes said the e-mails had a 99 percent success rate, and the text messages had a 86 percent success rate in going through. He also said 1,663 phone messages were delivered in 13 minutes.

“One of the reasons we send notifications would be to advise the entire community here [and] to keep them as up to date as we can,” Hermes said. “If they know what’s going on they can usually try and figure out what to do.”

Although it was tested in a worst-case scenario, Hermes said the system will be very useful in other situations such as severe weather, fires or hazardous material spills.

During the drill, members of both the city’s and parish’s fire, police and sheriff departments worked with campus police to train in a school shooting-type scenario. Hermes said he was advised by the local police that every unit, including the campus police, did an exceptional job with the drill.

“They have had this training more than once,” Hermes said. “I have to admit this is the first time any of our university officers have been able to participate in one of these mass casualties scenarios we’ve done in the past five years. I really wanted them to play an active role and they did. They were very confident and did a really good job.”

Hermes said one of the key components of running a successful maneuver is training with the other agencies so that everyone will know how to work together.

“If something happens inside our jurisdiction, which is on campus, officers with the campus police will be the first responders, and they will be supported by the Ruston Police Department,” Hermes said.
“Our guys were in the first group that went into this scenario, the dormitory.”

Student volunteers were painted with wounds and local emergency medical technicians simulated treating the students. Many were rushed to local emergency rooms to extend the training to hospitals.

Scott Blagec, one of the volunteers and a sophomore health and physical education major, said he feels safe if he gets hurt on campus because of drills like this.

“I was dead so my eyes were shut the whole time, but I know they got the other guys that were just hurt out pretty quick,” Blagec said.

Hermes took advantage of the drill to teach some of the resident assistants what to do in case a situation like this happened.
He said one of the things the RAs were doing wrong was after they evacuated the dorms, they let the residents wander off. In cases like this, Hermes said one of the biggest problems is keeping track of who was in the building, who is missing and who is hurt, and that responsibility belongs to the RAs.

Will Smith, an RA on the second floor of Neilson Hall, said scenario drills help them know what it’s like working with the EMT and other departments in case of an emergency.

“We’re basically doing the same thing we do in any other situation such as a fire or tornado drill, but its different simply because we are working with the emergency response teams,” Smith said.

Students who wish to enroll in the ENS can do so through their BOSS account.
For instructions go to www.latech.edu/ens-student-explanation.htm.