Mock active shooter exercise set for Jan. 5

BGSU police will host other law enforcement agencies and emergency personnel responding to a mock active shooter incident on campus Jan. 5.

Shelley Horine, a BGSU patrol officer and an organizer of the exercise, is seeking 100 volunteers to play roles as victims, parents, faculty and media, among others. Participants must complete and return consent forms by next Monday (Dec. 1). Forms have been distributed to Classified Staff and Administrative Staff councils, while student interest in returning from break to participate is being gauged more by word of mouth, Horine said.

Staff members interested in volunteering must also coordinate their absence from work with their supervisors.

“We’ve been working on this for at least eight months,” said campus police Chief James Wiegand about the planned exercise. The reported shot-fired incident in parking Lot 12 on Nov. 7 “gave us one more reason to be prepared to do something like this,” he added, but “has no bearing on what we’re doing.”

The Jan. 5 date was chosen after focusing on the holiday break but not wanting to schedule anything between graduation and New Year’s, when more people would be gone, Wiegand said. By choosing the following week, before the start of spring-semester classes Jan. 12, “we just thought we’d have an opportunity to do it with a small number of people on campus, without creating a lot of chaos with students,” he explained.

Other participating agencies are expected to include the Bowling Green police and fire divisions, the Wood County Sheriff’s Office, the State Highway Patrol and local EMS squads. Wood County Hospital and the local American Red Cross chapter will also be involved in the exercise, which will begin at 7 a.m., as will the BGSU Counseling Center and the Health Center, Horine said.

“We’re going to try to make it as real as possible,” she said, noting that academic buildings on campus will be used. Law enforcement participants will respond to a report of shots fired. After arriving, they will gain control of the situation and clear the scene so emergency responders can tend to the 20-25 “victims,” who will be taken to a triage area before being transported by EMS units to a drop-off location. Officers will also secure and process the crime scene during the event, which, including a debriefing, could last until mid-afternoon, Horine said.

The only exchange of simulated gunfire—using powdery, paintball-like pellets—will be between the “suspects” and officers, according to Wiegand. But the role-playing volunteers will hear what sounds like shots being fired and will see the resulting marks on people, he said. Each of the “victims” will wear donated goggles and other protective gear, Horine added.

 “Our intent is to have everyone on campus aware that it’s going to happen,” Wiegand said, pointing out that the unaware will wonder what’s happening as police cars start rolling in. The AlertBG text message system will be used, although what it will say, to ensure that recipients know the event is only a test, has yet to be determined, he said.

Wiegand and Horine said the exercise is largely a response to campus shootings elsewhere. It will give officers a chance to deal with something close to an authentic situation, the BGSU chief said, and the better trained they are in their response, “it’s going to be much better if we ever have to put it into place for real.”   

November 24, 2008