Friday, August 5, 2016

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MSMC tests emergency readiness

NEWBURGH – It looked real, but it was only an emergency preparedness drill. Law enforcement, wearing body armor and carrying automatic weapons, stormed Mt. St. Mary College in Newburgh on Thursday.

College security personnel, in partnership with the City of Newburgh Police Department, Mobile Life Support Services and the Hudson Valley Boy Scouts, held their annual drill.

This year’s drill was designed by Lt. Peter Vancura, leader of the City of Newburgh Police’s SWAT team, and incorporated his tactical, as well as training, knowledge to ensure the drill’s effectiveness. The scenario featured a police officer posing as an active shooter, entering the school while setting up simulated explosives and simulating gun fire. There were 16 role-players involved and approximately 60 individuals participated in total. Police and security were tasked with entering the building, neutralizing the shooter, clearing every room then evacuating the role-playing injured and deceased.

Police Chief Daniel Cameron said in order to create the most effective training scenario, police who were called to the drill were only informed that it was a drill, nothing else and some officers were intentionally delayed, while attempting to arrive on scene, to simulate actual, real-world conditions.

“When you’re doing training exercises that are real-life scenario based training, that’s the best training there is; when our people are involved in reality based training, that is the way to go and that’s where we learn the most,” said Cameron. “I witnessed this entire incident and I say I am very pleased with the response from all of the people who were involved in this process, and I think they did an incredible job on the test.”

Although Mt. St. Mary’s does this once a year, their Director of Security and Safety Matthew Byrne said the college is constantly working with their partners in local emergency response departments. Byrne and Cameron agreed that communication is of utmost importance, being that it can be the first thing to break down in an emergency situation. They said their command centers are always working together, building relationships, and making sure the community and campus are safe.

Byrne said a college campus is statistically the safest place to be if an active shooter scenario were to occur, and although the incidence is not probable, they take the issue of preparedness very seriously, making sure they are ready no matter what.

“This is a high risk, low frequency event, which means it’s unlikely to occur, but if does, there will be high risk of casualties,” said Byrne. “This is why, whatever the cost, you can’t put a price on safety, we build these things in, we accept them readily and it’s not just a drill that we do here today, there’s a lot of other things that go into that throughout the year.”

Byrne said hostage situation preparedness, other police training, and helping with community safety issues are some of the other ways the college, and the police department, utilize the relationship they have cultivated.


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