An “active shooter” has been identified at South Carolina State University’s Washington Dining Hall. Several students have been shot and there are multiple casualties. The shooter is carrying an automatic assault rifle.
The mock drill scenario was set in motion Tuesday morning to test the campuswide mass communication alert system for students, faculty and staff in the event of a real shooting incident on campus.
Students, faculty and staff were notified through a series of electronic communications, including social media, email, text messages, printed materials and campus sirens about the mock shooting.
During the drill, which began at 10 a.m., campus sirens were sounded with a voice over, “This is a drill. This is a drill. This is an active shooter drill initiative. Campus lockdown.”
The campus gates and traffic were shut down with officials standing watch outside of all campus buildings to ensure all remained within. Two officers were assigned to each building on campus.
S.C. State senior Breone Blackwell said she was unaware of the drill despite the fact that students, staff and faculty were informed about the coming drill and encouraged to register for the university’s emergency notification system, known as e2campus.
Individuals who registered received notification of the drill via email or text message.
“I am not on campus that much,” Blackwell said. “I don’t really check my emails too often.”
Even so, Blackwell says she feels safe on campus and that the drill was important.
The possibility of a shooting incident “is very scary,” she said. “I am aware it can take place here. I think campus security does a great job at keeping us safe.”
Elizabeth Mosely-Hawkins, university spokeswoman, said S.C. State is trying to find ways to encourage students like Blackwell to sign up for the text blasts and social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter.
“We do know that text messages are one of the ways that we can reach students,” she said.
Maria Hubbard, S.C. State academic coordinator with the Savannah River Environmental Scientist Field Station, said she stayed in the dark in her office during the drill.
“I thought it was such a great idea,” she said. Hubbard saw the shooting reenactment and drill video released by the university’s external affairs department and signed up for alerts on her cell phone.
“I feel safe because we are doing this, but I was also afraid at the same time because we go along in everyday life and think that these kinds of things won’t happen. But they do,” Hubbard said.
Suggestions provided those on campus in the event of a shooting include hiding, closing doors, remaining calm and, if necessary and safe to do so, escaping.
S.C. State held the drill in conjunction with Orangeburg County Emergency Services, Orangeburg Department of Public Safety, Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office and the police departments from Claflin University and Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.
S.C. State Campus Police Chief Mernard Clarkson said, “We want to identify any shortcomings we may have and to quickly rectify them to assure we have a safe outcome to a shooting incident.
“This is something we will do on an annual basis to ensure if there are any faults in the system, we will quickly identify them and correct them.”
Clarkson said he would describe the S.C. State campus as safe with few major incidents.
“Of course, a real-life situation is unpredictable,” Clarkson said. “This is not just training for South Carolina State University campus police, but these exercises will prepare the entire campus community on how to respond in the event of a real situation.”
Following the drill, there was a closed debriefing with law enforcement to assess how well the drill worked. Information on what the drill demonstrated will be revealed at a later date when the issues of concern are formalized and put into writing.
The university plans to hold a second drill in the spring with the full involvement of law enforcement and emergency personnel.
Clarkson said the drill was held because of the recent mass shootings on college and university campuses across the country.
Last month, shots were fired during homecoming weekend at North Carolina A&T University in Greensboro, leaving one man wounded and prompting a brief lockdown of the campus.
Earlier this year, there was a shooting at Lone Star College in Texas where three were injured and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in April where two people were killed.
The 2007 Virginia Technical College shooting, the deadliest mass murder at a U.S. college campus in history, left 32 people dead and 17 wounded.
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