We can all learn from emergency drill

Published 9:57 am Monday, March 3, 2008

By Staff
Human beings are prone to make mistakes.
What sets us apart is our ability to learn from them.
Elizabeth City State University officials made a big mistake on Feb. 22 when they staged a drill in which an armed gunman burst into a classroom so they could test how campus police would respond. The problem was those in the classroom weren’t aware it was a drill.
Anybody who has attended a pubic school can tell you about what it’s like to be part of a fire drill. Students are trained to know just want to do and where to go. Fire drills are one thing. A drill with an armed gunman is another matter.
One can only imagine the terror that must have been felt by teachers and students. It had only been eight days since a gunman broke into a classroom at a Northern Illinois University classroom and killed five people before killing himself. The memories of April 16, 2007 when a gunman killed 32 people in a dorm and a classroom building at Virginia Tech are still fresh for many of us.
University officials say they sent out e-mail and text messages to teachers and students prior to the drill, but clearly that wasn’t enough.
Martin said UNC system and ECSU officials met and discussed how the drill was conducted. He said he was confident that ECSU’s mistakes in communication would not be repeated in future drills.
ECSU Chancellor Willie Gilchrist has apologized in a letter to students, faculty and staff for the university officials’ failure to properly alert students and teachers.
Gilchrist’s letter, dated Thursday, also said the university has halted plans for future emergency response drills pending a thorough review of the university’s procedures for communicating about the exercises.
Some ECSU students might have already been on edge. The university went through a series of bomb threats late last year, including one that came during a scheduled hearing on the Navy’s plans to build an outlying landing field in North Carolina. The seven bomb threats, made over a two-week span, came to an end following the arrest of an ECSU student on Nov. 6.
ECSU can take the lesson of Feb. 22 and learn from it. We hope others do the same.