Catalyzed by the recent tragic events in the nation surrounding gun violence, SUNY New Paltz is revving up their emergency preparedness tactics and increasing transparency of these strategies to students and faculty.
On, Oct. 11 at 10 a.m, the Office of Emergency Management and the University Police Department (UPD) conducted a partial lockdown drill on campus in Wooster Hall. The drill was executed by the UPD, and simulated a violent intruder event. Imitation threats, gunshots, a lockdown of Wooster Hall and an armed police response were the elements that created this reality-based drill.
College Emergency Manager Scott Schulte, UPD Chief David Dugatkin, UPD Lieutenant John Ritiyak and Lieutenant Ryan Williams were key players in planning, executing and disseminating information regarding the now successfully noted drill.
Williams posed as an active shooter, yanking on locked doors and shooting blanks around Wooster Hall during the lockdown. He presented himself as unstable, yelling and waving his unloaded gun around.
To add to the realism of the situation, on-speaker warnings and alarms were broadcasted throughout Wooster Hall. Williams also called various office phones in the character of a deranged student stating “I am sick and tired of your office ruining my life so I’m going to ruin yours. I’ll be over in a few minutes and you are dead!”
Disclaiming messages as part of the drill, students and faculty received texts from the campus warning them of the presence of an active shooter in Wooster Hall. Additionally, in the weeks prior, campus-wide emails were sent out reminding students and faculty of the impending lockdown drill.
“We planned this lockdown for today [Oct. 11] because not only are Wednesdays a low-traffic week day on campus, but since fall break just ended, we don’t expect as many students as usual,” Schulte said.
UPD received exclusive messages of “panic calls” from faculty or students and potential location of the “shooter.” UPD officers undergo reality-based active shooter situations in an annual training each year in Esopus Hall during inter-semester breaks.
According to a campus-wide email regarding the success of the drill, the Office of Emergency Management and UPD worked in collaboration with key campus stakeholders to create a lockdown committee whose members include faculty, staff, Campus Auxiliary Services (CAS) and the Office of Environmental Health and Safety.
“We want to be as prepared as possible for an event we hope never happens in a college university or campus,” said College President Donald Christian. “It is important that people know what to do in an emergency situation.”
Campus senior executives took part in an emergency management training course developed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). According to Christian, the college is also continuously being sure to recognize that their emergency preparedness policies are up to date. Campus Emergency Response Plans for Faculty & Staff and for students are available on the school website.
In Fall 2018, the Office of Emergency Management and UPD plan on conducting a campus-wide emergency lockdown drill to prepare for potential larger scale threats. Plans for this drill are still being discussed and outlined, however, incoming students starting in the Fall 2018 will be notified of this procedure before moving in.
Video of the lockdown drill taken by The Oracle can be found here.