WILMINGTON — Students from Wilmington College’s Social Media Management Class, as well as staff members from WC’s student newspaper, The Witness, participated in an active shooter drill on the campus of Clinton Memorial Hospital.
Acting as members representing various forms of media (newspaper, television, radio and social media), the students participated in a mock press conference following the drill, challenging representatives from the hospital and police force to respond to media inquiries, much as they would have to do should such an event take place.
Last week’s drill was a first for CMH. But, many medical facilities are working to put specialized crisis plans in place after a surge in shooter events at such locations over the last decade.
“What we have seen, from 2006 to 2011, is that active shooters inside hospitals have increased 19.6 percent,” said WPD Sgt. Ron Fithen. “So, now is the time. If there wasn’t a plan, we have to get one in place.”
Four local agencies — Clinton Memorial Hospital, Wilmington Police Department, Wilmington Fire Department and Clinton County Emergency Medical Agency (EMA) — combined to organize the drill.
According to Fithen, more drills are likely to take place soon at local schools, colleges and other organizations, as agencies are looking for formulate uniform response strategies that will allow departments to work better together.
“The Ohio Board of Education is trying to get all schools on one plan,” said Fithen. “That way, if we need to go to another area for mutual aid, we know what to do. The same holds true with college campuses.”
When approached about having students participate, WC Instructor Nick Wiget felt this was a great chance to allow students to learn how to work as media professionals in the fast-paced field, where journalists often have to adapt to cover breaking stories quickly.
“Any chance when students get the opportunity to work outside of the classroom in a ‘real-life’ setting is fantastic,” said Wiget. “We espouse the notion of hands-on learning at Wilmington College, so it’s really great when the students get to be a part of an event that benefits our community, as a whole.”
Jennifer Wall, both a communication arts student and CMH employee, saw the drill as a way to practice vital safety procedures.
“We were notified that a drill would be taking place, but weren’t given a lot of details,” said Wall. “I think that helps, as it allows us to test our emergency notification system and response protocol in a more realistic setting. Hopefully, these are the types of scenarios that will never really play out.”
Jamal McClendon, also a communication arts student, found the experience to be a great way to compliment his work with student publications as a photographer and videographer.
“Being there and experiencing what it’s like to be able to get an interview from the police and see how they answer questions first-hand was pretty amazing,” said McClendon. “One day soon, maybe I can do this on a regular basis.”
Overall, the drill was considered a success, as response times were lower than expectations.
“Usually, an active shooter event is done between 5-8 minutes. Our first officer was on the scene in 4 minutes,” said Fithen. “And, that was a non-emergency response time. If he was running sirens, you could cut that time in half to two minutes. It was a great response time.”
Fithen feels that CMH staff did a good job in putting together and executing a plan in a short amount of time, as well.
“I think that the work that they did, over just the last three months, is coming together,” he said. “We just have to finalize and tweak some things. But, that’s why we do these drills; we work to make ourselves better.”