During an emergency preparedness exercise Wednesday, William Woods University was struck by a F-3 tornado. But that wasn’t all that happened during the drill meant to prepare the university in the event of a crisis.
At the request of Dr. Jahnae H. Barnett, WWU president, several faculty, staff and administrators participated in a two-hour functional tabletop exercise simulating an emergency on campus.
“The safety of our students, faculty, staff and visitors is paramount,” Barnett said. “We want to ensure, to the best of our ability, that we are prepared for
During the exercise, a cross-section of 35 faculty, staff and administrators were given problems to solve, based on a written, customized scenario. In addition to WWU personnel, key local and county emergency responders participated in the training.
According to the scenario, classes were in session, university trustees were meeting, and numerous prospective students had arrived for a campus visit day.
The weather was nice enough at the beginning and didn’t become a problem until other situations had manifested themselves.
First, protestors with PETA signs congregated at the equestrian facilities to protest the treatment of animals on campus. WWU requested assistance from the Fulton Police for crowd control. In the meantime, a person acting strangely, possibly under the influence of drugs, was reported to be bothering people, and a student was blinded by a bag of microwave popcorn.
Then, an elderly woman called to report that her prized poodle had run away and was running loose on campus. One of the buildings was experiencing a lack of water pressure, and assistance was requested. The protesters let the university’s 180 horses out of their stables; the horses spooked and ran away.
While all this was going on, a tornado, with wind speeds between 158 and 206 mph, hit the campus. Severe damage, injuries and possible fatalities were reported. Portable generators and light towers were requested to illuminate the interior of McNutt Campus Center for search and rescue purposes. Debris blocking the roadways was preventing emergency vehicles from accessing the campus.
To add to the chaos, rumors were flying on social media, and calls continued to come in to the command center from parents, media, faculty, students,
citizens, the police and fire departments, city officials, area hospitals and others.
The tabletop exercise was part of a three-day emergency management training being conducted by Emergency Planning Solutions, one of the top emergency management consulting firms in the country for higher education. The firm is headquartered in Beloit, Wis.
“We are working with William Woods employees to develop an emergency management plan and operational processing to make the campus a safe and
prepared institution of higher learning,” James Reseburg, chief executive officer of Emergency Planning Solutions, said.
“This was the first of several steps we are planning to ensure the safety of everyone on campus,” Barnett said. “When completed we will be equipped with an emergency plan specifically designed for William Woods University.”