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U North Florida Conducts Active Shooter Simulation

The University of North Florida (UNF) in Jacksonville was recently the site of a security exercise involving the simulated response to a shooter on campus. The crisis management and preparedness services division of James Lee Witt Associates joined university personnel and other private and public participants in conducting the "Secure Scholar" functional exercise.

The simulation, involving a total of 30 people, was first developed in a preliminary workshop and tabletop exercise forum in March. Holding the live exercise was one of a series of recommendations for enhanced emergency preparedness activities on Florida college campus offered by the Gubernatorial Task Force on Campus Security, convened by Charles Crist, Florida's governor.

"The exercise platform provided us with a unique opportunity to exercise the crisis management team's response in a controlled environment," said Jeff Durfee, director, IT security of the university. "Without the creativity of the exercise planning team, we could not have simulated the real world stress and crisis decision making adequately."

In order to achieve realism in this simulated response, this unique scenario and multi-media presentation unfolded through the lens of a student Web cam and other video media elements. The story video approach provided stark realism to other simulated events and was instrumental to meeting the exercise objectives.

"Participants noted the value of the series of emergency planning and training sessions they conducted in advance of the exercise," said Chip Patterson, director of disaster services at Coxwell Disaster Services and exercise director for the university's crisis management team. "The success of the exercise is primarily because the level of commitment and engagement of the [campus'] leadership and community response in exercise play."

The next stage of the process will be to capture lessons learned and best practices for future planning, training, and exercises.

Witt Associates provides crisis management consulting to educational institutions. Coxwell, a division of a construction and engineering firm, offers emergency management and homeland security services.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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