Scripps College hosted a drill simulating an active shooter scenario the mornings of Jan. 16, 17, and 18 for the benefit of local law enforcement, paramedics, and fire agencies.
“[The Los Angeles County Fire Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department] approached Scripps College directly about the use of Garrison Theater. Scripps agreed and initially thought that the drill would only involve LA County personnel and Scripps personnel,” wrote Karen Sisson PO ’79, Vice President and Treasurer of Pomona College, in an e-mail to TSL.
The drill, which took place in and around Scripps’s Garrison Theater, ended up involving several local Los Angeles County Fire Stations, the Claremont Police Department, and a SWAT team from the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s Special Enforcement Bureau. Its goal was to prepare local responders in the event that a shooting were to take place at the 5Cs.
“They’re the people who would come and help us if something happened, so now they know all our campuses much better, although hopefully they’ll never need to come with something of this scale,” said Marylou Ferry, Vice President of Communications and Marketing at Scripps.
The exercise enlisted the help of community members, who played the roles of victims and survivors fleeing the crime scene. The drill also involved emergency response teams from Scripps, Pomona College, and Claremont McKenna College, who were involved in taking the “victims” out of Garrison Theater.
Although the drill took place just a month after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Ferry said that Scripps had been planning the drill before the Dec. 14 shootings took place.
“The LA County Fire Department approached us at the end of November to ask about doing a drill,” Ferry said. “What the LA County Fire Department was practicing needed a theater-type setting to practice in. They came here when the residence hall curtains caught on fire [and] when students need help, so they approached our head facilities guy and asked for it.”
Ferry noted, however, that the drill gathered more momentum after the Sandy Hook shootings, and that fire companies, paramedic companies, and ambulance companies were more willing to participate after the tragedy occurred.
The drill, which lasted from 7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. each day, was conducted with real emergency equipment, including helicopters, fire trucks, and ambulances. All weapons involved fired blanks. About 220 outside observers came to the 5Cs to observe the drill.
“One side benefit of the drill is that a lot of key people know more about the Claremont Colleges and where we are,” Ferry said.
According to Ferry, Scripps has conducted small-scale active shooter drills before, but not anything on the magnitude of last month’s drill.
“The takeaway was a couple of things: One, that we’re actually better prepared than a lot of places that they’ve worked with, that our [Community Emergency Response Teams] did a great job. Two, what we learned about the camaraderie across the colleges, from the public information officers working with each other: who has translators, how we would track students,” Ferry said. “So we all feel like we learned a lot.”