In the wake of multiple and various tragic events at colleges and universities all over the country, Utah State University wants to give students and the community in Logan one more reason to be ready should anything happen there.
Four gunmen, armed with automatic weapons, handguns and two improvised explosive devices, entered the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum on Saturday morning, "killing" and "wounding" several people during a mock gymnastics meet.
The exercise was designed to test the emergency response capabilities of USU, Logan city, Cache County and the Utah National Guard, which had all been informed of the drill.
The biggest difference from a real disaster is that this emergency had been planned for some time.
Starting in early summer, officials drafted the disaster from its beginning to the end, planning every detail of what would happen and what should happen as the consequence.
"We will never have the luxury of time in the event of a real disaster, but we have time now to prepare, and that is the purpose behind this exercise," said Steve Mecham, executive director of public safety at USU.
"It gives all of us a chance to test our communication systems, our response time, our backup mechanisms, our resources and our ability to think on our feet."
In addition to the active shooting scenario, USU's Emergency Manager Judy Crockett said there was a chemical release so officials could deal with a hazardous-material situation as well.
She said the multiple aspects of the drill would show how well the school and other agencies can work under the National Incident Management System, which was implemented after Sept. 11, 2001.
The community, including students, were informed of the drill by local media, and the event was posted on the school's online calendar. University spokesman Tim Vitale said, "We've put the information out there, but this is for our training, too."
He didn't expect the same sort of media attention brought to USU following a van crash in September 2005 that killed eight students and one faculty member, leaving only two survivors. The accident is USU's most recent and largest-ever emergency and in many cases, the only such situation that current officials at the school have had to deal with.
"We all have experience in crisis management; we have crisis plans, phone trees and know what to do, but until it happens on a large scale, we'll just be scrambling to bring people in," Vitale said. "It's going to be a great learning experience."
More than 50 volunteer victims were treated at the university's indoor basketball arena by local and state agency emergency response teams, which also made themselves available for the training exercise. Results from the drill will allow officials representing these groups to identify strengths and weaknesses when faced with similar situations and the task of saving lives."We always go on the premise of not if a disaster will strike but when," Mecham said. "Drills are the best way to prepare for the inevitable."
E-mail: [email protected]