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Source: University of Toronto

U of T campus police sponsor simulated critical incident management training

November 9, 2006

Integrated response from emergency services is vital Nov 9/06 by Mary Alice Thring (about) (email)

When the radio crackled "Officer down, repeat, officer down" the energy in the command post shifted. In a Canadian first, some 40 first responders from the University of Toronto and six other Canadian campus police services were brought together with city of Toronto police, fire and emergency services last week at the 89 Chestnut St. Residence for a simulated critical incident training exercise with real life implications.

"One of the main goals of the program is the safety of all emergency responders," said John McNall, president of Bowmac Educational Systems of Rochester, N.Y. Bowmac has been offering training in critical incident management and emergency planning since the 1980ís to police and emergency personnel across the U.S. Like McNall, the instructors are all former police or fire service commanders.

"From my own experience I know every member of campus police needs to take this training," said Dan Hutt, manager of U of T campus police services, the sessionís sponsor. "This type of training is essential to bring together the city emergency agencies and universities so we all speak with a common dictionary. This incident command simulation is about teaching that language."

The program is designed to provide an integrated response and an "all hazards" approach to crises ranging from natural disasters to terrorist activities. As participants learned, all critical incidents share common issues that must be addressed effectively: communications, resources, crowd and traffic control, chain of command, political and media pressures, planning and training and environmental factors.

"Canada has recently adopted the Incident Command System to bring together the different elements for emergency response," McNall said. Based on the U.S. National Incident Management System, the goal is a unified approach for first responders and an attempt to break down the independent cultural silos among police, fire and other non-traditional responders, he explained. By identifying common issues and resources, response planning can begin with role clarification and relationship building in the calm of a classroom rather than the hectic environment of an actual incident.

The three-day session in Toronto included lessons learned from real life examples, including the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma, the World Trade Centre and Pentagon attacks, the Columbine High School shootings and the devastating earthquake at California State University at Northridge. The course content was customized for Canadian law and culture. The final day of the training, a table top exercise simulated response to a campus demonstration gone terribly wrong. The responders faced a progressive barrage of challenges ranging from rock and bottle throwing to toxic substances, explosions and fire on a model midtown campus.

Hutt, who represents Canadian colleges and universities on the board of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA), said this training is available to American colleges and universities through a Homeland Security grant administered by IACLEA. Canadian universities receive no such support but Hutt still plans to continue the training.

"We will run this training again but will take it up a notch and involve members of the university's crisis response teams in the simulation," Hutt said.

McNall would be happy to return. "This is our first training session in Canada and we were absolutely impressed with the warm reception as well as the quality of individuals in the course and their enthusiastic participation."



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