ECSU tests emergency preparedness plan

Kesha Williams
February 26, 2008

Elizabeth City State University is one of many universities in the University of North Carolina system using the Public Information Emergency Response System (PIER). The system is one of many communication tools ECSU uses to relay messages during emergencies or events that interrupt the normal operating hours. Last Friday, the university conducted one of many routine drills to determine how well university officials can respond to a crisis. Unlike other situations that centered around a natural disaster such as a fire or tornado drill, university officials used a scenario involving an intruder. Five days in advance, the ECSU Office of University Relations & Marketing distributed messages by an internal, mass, phone number network and by e-mail. Students, staff and faculty were warned the university would conduct an emergency response drill. At approximately 1:31 pm students, staff and faculty received e-mail and text messages to announce the start of the drill: "This is a test. ECSU is holding a test drill where an armed intruder will enter a room in Moore Hall and be detained by Campus Police." Campus Police took the steps they normally would in such a situation. They set up road blocks at the major entrances of campus. They surrounded Moore Hall where the scenario was taking place in a second floor classroom. The intruder was also a member of the Campus Police squad. He held a plastic, red model gun used for such drills. Less than 15 minutes later, the scenario ended and the intruder, Mr. Williams was escorted away from the building by his Campus Police peers. Dr. Anthony Brown, vice chancellor for Student Affairs at ECSU, says the entire drill helped university officials determine their level of preparedness and the improvements that must be made. "Student safety and campus security is a concern for all of us, and measures must be taken to test the preparedness of our emergency crisis systems. Tabletop exercises and real time scenarios are just one of those measurements." Dr. Brown said. ECSU Chancellor Willie J. Gilchrist is well aware of the kinds of crisis situations facing schools and universities across the nation. He decided the university needed to increase the usual scope of drill scenarios. "ECSU is located on the coast of North Carolina so we are subject to far more hurricanes, tropical storms and evacuations than other University of North Carolina universities. We want to prepare students, staff and faculty for emergencies but emergencies are not always related to the weather," Gilchrist said. "We made every effort to inform our students, staff and faculty five days in advance that a drill would be conducted." "We did not inform that particular class per se, but it was a learning experience beyond table top experiences where every person knows what is going to happen next. Unfortunately we learned lessons from frightened students that result when live scenarios are carried out. However, we want our campus to be ready in case of such an event," Gilchrist said. University counselors remain available for any students who were troubled by the drill.