UAS to test emergency procedures on Ketchikan campus

A terrorist is expected to visit the tiny University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan campus on Tuesday.

In the real world, such events are not scheduled. But more and more they are prepared for, and that’s what the University of Alaska system has been doing over the last couple of years.

“Here we go again,” says Rick Forkel, University of Alaska Director of Emergency Management, when asked how the July 20 Aurora, Colorado shooting impacts local emergency preparation. The suspect, James Holmes, 24, allegedly killed 12 and injured 58 people in a movie theater.

Forkel has coordinated so-called “active shooter” exercises on other U-A campuses. He says the Ketchikan event has been planned for months, but incidents such as Aurora help first responders refine their preparation for the real thing.

“Any real world event like that just reinforces why we do these types of exercises so that we can test our response procedures and get our personnel comfortable with those procedures. And that just breeds confidence,” he says.

In 2010, an active-shooter drill was staged on the UAS Juneau campus. Since then, response procedures have been refined, and a statewide notification system put in place. Forkel says that will be tested in Tuesday’s Ketchikan campus exercise.

“We all have a need to know. There are different audiences that need to know and need to respond and we’re going to be testing that very capability,” he says.

He says that well-designed exercises or real world responses present big opportunities to test emergency preparation. “Like the Aurora incident – you don’t have to be there to learn lessons from it.”

UAS will soon hire an emergency preparedness coordinator for the three UAS campuses, to be headquartered in Juneau. The UAA and UAF campuses each have a coordinator, and Forkel has been filling that role for Southeast. He says several applicants were interviewed last week and he expects the finalist to be on the job within the next two months.

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