This is only a drill!

Published 12:27 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2013

MURFREESBORO – It’s an event no emergency responder wants to see occur, but nonetheless trains for just in case.

Chowan University will host a multi-agency emergency response drill on Friday, Aug. 9. The exact timing of the drill has not yet been set, but will involve the cooperation of seven agencies, including area law enforcement, emergency management, healthcare and EMS services.

A representative from the Governor’s Office will be on hand to oversee the project, funded through a state training grant to Hertford County Emergency Management.

According to Chowan officials, the drill will simulate a catastrophic incident taking place on the university campus and will assess preparedness and the ability of supporting agencies to respond to such an occurrence. This drill will help agencies and the university look closer at their disaster preparedness and gain new insight on responding to emergencies in order to become better prepared for the future.

Randy Harrell, Vice President of Student Affairs at Chowan, said Friday’s drill isn’t the first time the university campus has hosted such an event.

“We had one here about five years ago with personnel from the Murfreesboro Police Department and Hertford County Sheriff’s Office participating along with staff here on our campus,” Harrell said. “We saw the need to host another drill; this one will be much larger in scale due to the number of participating agencies.”

Harrell said university officials wanted to make Murfreesboro citizens aware of what was to take place on the Chowan campus.

“We want to minimize public panic as much as possible by informing the public ahead of time that on Friday they will hear, they will see emergency responders, with lights flashing and sirens wailing, rushing to our campus,” Harrell said. “We’ll also have our campus-wide alarm activated at the outset of the drill. It’s a siren and it’s loud; it can be heard far off campus.”

Multiple agencies will respond to the campus, including Murfreesboro Police, NC Highway Patrol, and the Hertford County Sheriff’s Office and EMS.

“They will be responding as if this was an actual event,” Harrell noted. “For that reason some of the town’s streets close to our campus will be closed.”

Harrell said he was not aware of an event of this scale, to include Vidant Roanoke-Chowan Hospital in Ahoskie, taking place recently in the state.

“We want this drill to push us beyond our abilities, to show the areas where we are vulnerable, where we can take the steps necessary to improve how we react and how we respond in case of an actual event of this magnitude,” Harrell stressed.

Friday’s drill will also benefit the town of Murfreesboro as well as its Police Department.

“We’re in this to take a long, hard look at what our police need; how to help protect our citizens, to include Chowan students and staff, in case, God forbid, something of this magnitude does occur in the future,” said Murfreesboro Mayor John Hinton.

John Tayloe, Chowan’s Vice President of Development, said the university was grateful to Hertford County Emergency Management Director Chris Smith for obtaining the grant to conduct the drill.

“What will take place on our campus on Friday is happening due to Chris Smith’s grant writing expertise,” Tayloe noted. “Chris needs the credit; without him we would not be doing this large scale event.”

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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