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Published: Tuesday, 1/6/2009

Bowling Green stages fake attack to educate police, EMS

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
First responders load a 'victim' into an ambulance during a mock shooting drill. First responders load a 'victim' into an ambulance during a mock shooting drill.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

BOWLING GREEN - It's a situation police hope they never see - swarms of victims bloodied and screaming because of a shooter on campus.

But in the post-Virginia Tech era, it's something officers need to be prepared for in a college atmosphere.

Bowling Green State University took a lead role yesterday with a mock active shooter drill on campus that included area law enforcement responding to a "shooting" and helping the "victims."

"We all know the threat of violence on college campuses has become a very valid issue," BGSU interim President Carol Cartwright said.

And few large-scale drills have been similar to what BGSU tackled, which took eight months to plan, she said.

"Let's all understand it is very reassuring to know we are prepared if we have to face such a crisis," she said.

An Ohio Highway Patrol SWAT team member escorts a 'victim' from Olscamp Hall, the site of a mock shooting at BGSU. An Ohio Highway Patrol SWAT team member escorts a 'victim' from Olscamp Hall, the site of a mock shooting at BGSU.
THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT Enlarge | Buy This Photo

In all, police ran through three different scenarios of a shooter in the Olscamp Hall classroom building on campus.

Three victims were killed, an officer was shot, and 18 others were injured in the morning drills.

During the practice scenarios, police killed the shooter in one case and critically injured the gunman in another, and the person was taken into custody in the third situation.

Several local agencies were involved, including BGSU campus police, Bowling Green police and fire departments, Wood County sheriff's deputies, and the Ohio Highway Patrol, as well as the Wood County Hospital, Wood County Emergency

Management Agency, and local chapters of the American Red Cross.

More than 100 volunteers - students and staff, members of the media, parents, and more - played the part of victims.

Nicole Szparagowski, who learned about the volunteer opportunity through the drama club at Bowling Green High School, where she is a freshman, was covered in fake blood as rescue workers helped her from the building.

Nicole, who was shot in the right hand during the exercise, said she was glad she signed up to help.

"I think this is good because it gives an opportunity for them to practice," she said.

Adam Ramos was a volunteer who was shot in the left shoulder. The 14-year-old boy described his role as yelling for help and telling responders what happened.

"It's crazy that it can actually happen, but it helped me know freaking out in a situation like that isn't going to help," he said.

BGSU Police Chief Jim Wiegand said an initial critique is that the exercise went well, but it wasn't without kinks.

The Alert BG system that sends text messages and

e-mails to staff and students who sign up didn't immediately send the notices.

The university planned to use a new way of sending the messages, but it wasn't hooked up yet and officials had to revert to the old system for yesterday's exercises.

Most of the messages were sent by e-mail only, so they wouldn't alarm the students, who are out of school on break, with mock drill updates every half hour.

There were OHP officials on campus evaluating the response, and they will give the university additional feedback in a few weeks, Chief Wiegand said.

OHP Superintendent Col. Richard Collins said it's important not only for police to practice, but for college officials to be aware of how to handle such a situation.

"In today's world you just never know," he said. "So you need to do the preparation work to hopefully be able to respond in an appropriate manner."

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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