Admissions - MMA holds active-shooter drill to test preparedness
Photo by Cape Cod Times/Steve Heaslip
The message rang out at 9:30 a.m. sharp Wednesday over the campus loudspeakers. "We have a report of an active shooter in the Harrington Building," said Chris Farrell, a part-time Massachusetts Maritime Academy police officer, referring to the facility that houses administrative offices and classrooms.
In the minutes that followed, reports came in about a disgruntled former student going to his truck to get a gun, a female cadet killed in the gymnasium, the dean shot dead in his office.
But, as the students and faculty had already been told, it was only a drill.
The academy has held drills in the past to prepare for a flood, hurricane, bomb scare or chemical spill, among other emergencies, on its Taylors Point campus. This year, academy officials chose to simulate having a shooter on campus, in response to a recent federal recommendation to adopt a "Run. Hide. Fight." approach rather than shelter in place.
"You have to use discretion, depending on where the scenario is," said campus Police Chief Christopher Slattery. "If you can escape, you escape. If escaping puts you in harm's way, then you hide and you lock down. If your location is breached, then you prepare to fight."
Slattery noted that "Run. Hide. Fight" isn't necessarily suitable for elementary or even high schools, since students are essentially in one building. On a college campus, he students, students have more escape routes and, typically, better judgment.
Thursday's scenario began with a former cadet — played by campus police Lt. David Ransom — barging into the dean's office and asking to be accepted back into the academy. After an argument, Ransom said he would come back.
Following the script, Ransom returned to Brad Lima's office carrying a handgun loaded with blanks and pretended to shoot him dead before going on a killing spree, shooting students who donned bright orange safety vests. Meanwhile, Farrell called out the reported locations of the shooter over the campus' two loudspeakers and sent out email and text messages to students and staff.
When it was reported that the gunman killed himself, emergency responders rushed in to triage gray blow-up dolls and students lying on the ground.
Reflecting on the brief drill, Slattery and Rear Adm. Richard Gurnon, president of the academy, said they were pleased with the messaging system but concerned that what was said over the loudspeakers was not clear inside campus buildings.
"We have to probably put extra speakers up," Gurnon said.
Gurnon said he also saw confusion with the "Run. Hide. Fight." doctrine, as some ran when they would have been safer hiding.
Bourne and state police were alerted but did not take part in the simulation. Campus police acted as if they did not have handguns, even though the academy plans to arm them by September.
Before the board of trustees approved the plan, Gurnon said he felt the risks of a mishap outweighed the potential benefit of arming police.
On Wednesday, however, Gurnon said that if the officer had been armed while following the intruder to his car, "it may have been a different outcome."
Article by Ryan Barber/ Cape Cod Times
May 29, 2014