UA campus trains for a massacre scenario

Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2007

ANCHORAGE - The two largest campuses in the University of Alaska system are giving procedures and emergency training a fresh look after this week's shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.

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Thirty-three people died Monday in Blacksburg, Va., in what was the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. The man identified as the gunman, Cho Seung-Hui, 23, killed himself.

Many Virginia Tech students said they never got word of events unfolding on campus, prompting officials at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to take a new look at how the school communicates with faculty, staff and students.

"As the technology changes, we will have to look at it and see if we can do it better," said UAF spokeswoman Carla Browning.

For now, the school relies on mostly traditional methods, such as the use of a campus hot line and campus radio station to get the word out in the event of an emergency.

Browning said e-mail lists also can be used in the event of a campus emergency and detailed information can be posted on the university's Web site.

About 1,000 students live in UAF's dorms, and more than 5,000 students are enrolled at the campus.

Meanwhile, 14 police officers at the University of Alaska campus in Anchorage are currently being trained to respond to a situation similar to what occurred at Virginia Tech.

"We do practice scenario training on different situations. The current topic we are running through is the active shooter. That is what the situation in Virginia was," UAA campus police chief Dale Pittman said Wednesday.

Last month, half of the campus police force participated in drills where they carried unloaded weapons in search of a person who was walking through a building and shooting. The remaining police officers will be trained this month.

While the campus, with between 7,000 and 8,000 students, has no way to instantly notify its students, it does have a quick notification system in place for up to 300 faculty and staff.

University officials also are looking into setting up some kind of public announcement system that could use existing phone lines.

The university does not have a system in place where students could be alerted through their cell phones, Pittman said.

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