Local first responders experienced a full-scale emergency drill Thursday morning at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Some students were on the UCO campus where the spring semester begins Monday. People passing by were wondering what the emergency vehicles were doing in a taped-off area near University Drive and Ayers Street.
UCO spokeswoman Adrienne Nobles said the exercise is a part of the university’s ongoing emergency management training efforts.
“The safety and security of our students, faculty and staff is our top priority, and these exercises help us prepare as best we can for potential emergencies,” Nobles said. “This full-scale exercise is another advancement in our training.”
Several university personnel have participated in FEMA’s Incident Command System training courses, as well as table-top exercises and a shelter-in-place drill, Nobles said.
“Each exercise shows us ways we can improve our response,” she said.
Edmond and UCO are connected in many ways. In an actual emergency situation, UCO would be working with the relevant City of Edmond agencies as well as EMSA, area hospitals and more, Nobles said.
“This type of training helps us find ways we can best work together in emergency situations and allows us to further build relationships and trust so we respond as a team,” she said.
Nobles said other personnel and some students served as observers/evaluators or as a victim or a parent, for example. Every corner of the campus serves students and has the potential to be impacted by an emergency situation, Nobles said. Therefore it is important that the university have trained personnel throughout campus, she said.
Nobles said the exact details of the exercise were revealed in “real time” to the participating faculty and staff to keep the exercise as close to reality as possible.
First responders including HAZMAT personnel rehearsed suiting up, entering a structure (West Hall), experiencing the decontamination process and all of the related communication.
“As the safety and security of our campus community remains a top priority, the exercise is an essential part of the university’s efforts to continually evaluate, practice and adjust our procedures to assure we are prepared should we find ourselves in an emergency situation,” Nobles said.
In a real-life scenario, press contacts for various City of Edmond departments would have been involved, initially with gathering information and then passing it on to media organizations.
Nobles and City of Edmond public information officer Ashleigh Clark, Fire Maj. Bill Brown and EPD spokeswoman Jenny Monroe prepped for what their duties would be in a real-life scenario.
Clark said her day began at 7 a.m. and the scenario started at 8 a.m. She shadowed several evaluators for a while and communicated with the public information officers in the other departments.
Nobles said she was dispatched to the incident command post to serve as UCO’s media contact. She worked with the other PIOs in their unified communication with the media and with the leadership of UCO’s respective organizations, Nobles said.
Participants had a de-brief session immediately after the exercise to discuss things they were doing right and opportunities for improvement, Nobles said. It included exercise planners, evaluators and players.
Participants will be part of a more formal session in a few weeks when they will reconvene to talk about what they learned and how they can apply it to improve policies and procedures, Nobles said.
On a more immediate level, UCO will walk away with fresh perspective and new relationships with fellow staff members and those at partner agencies that can be put to use on the job right away, Nobles said.
Nobles said UCO is constantly seeking opportunities to advance training in this area through exercises such as this.
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