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June 5, 2014

Area colleges: We've drilled, prepared for catastrophe

In light of the mass shooting near the University of California at Santa Barbara on May 23, officials from local colleges said Tuesday they consider themselves prepared for such an event, should it ever arise.

“If the unforeseen happens, we want to be prepared to ensure the safety of our students, maintain the security of our campus, and work with emergency responders to address whatever challenge confronts us,” said Hal Legg, director of communications at the State University College at Oneonta.

Legg said SUNY Oneonta has been conducting emergency simulations annually for several years, including simulated power failures, heat waves, suicides and terrorist acts. Last year, the University Police Department partnered with the Oneonta Public Transit to simulate a bus accident on campus, Legg said.

With the help of local police agencies, fire departments and other first responders, University Police lead the drills, which give participants practice in dealing with natural disasters and other dangerous scenarios, such as shootings, Legg said.

The college makes these drills as life-like as possible, Legg said, to best prepare students, faculty and staff. In 2012, the college set up an exercise simulating an active shooter in Milne Library, with students from the Theater Department playing various roles.

“Our goal is to continuously refine how we approach urgent situations,” Legg said.

Hartwick College officials said they, too, have several plans in place in case of crisis.

Director of Campus Safety Tom Kelly said a “Shooter on Campus” training is given to all incoming students during Welcome Weekend, their first weekend on campus. The same training is given to all faculty and staff on an ongoing basis, Kelly said.

Trainings are also conducted with local first responders. Past drills have included shooter-on-campus and explosion-on-campus scenarios, Kelly said.

Joel Smith, vice president for college relations and advancement at the State University College of Technology at Delhi, said ensuring the safety of SUNY Delhi students is the school’s top priority.

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