The University of Central Arkansas’ active shooter exercise held Thursday afternoon went well, according to UCA vice president of communications Jeff Pitchford.
The exercise began at about 1:30 when a “shooter” entered Minton Hall, which was full of student actors, and fired off a number of blank cartridges. UCAPD officers responded and made tactical entry into Minton Hall as student actors, including some “casualties,” made their way out and were collected by other officers to be questioned.
By 1:56, the “shooter” had been neutralized by UCAPD officers, and MEMS paramedics and Conway Fire Department firemen were allowed in to bring out the remaining casualties.
Pitchford said that one area of improvement immediately identified was the outdoor voice alert system. The first message, broadcast across the campus by rooftop-mounted speakers, was intelligible enough — that the audible alert was only a test — but subsequent instructions that may have been meant to warn students to stay away from Minton Hall were garbled and hard to make out.
“What we’ve learned is, we always need to strive to improve our response times,” he continued. “We felt like it was adequate today, but you always need to respond as quickly as possible.”
Faulkner County Office of Emergency Management Director Shelia Maxwell, who was one of several officials controlling and evaluating the exercise, said that a more careful search of the structure could have been done while UCAPD officers cleared Minton Hall, because soon after paramedics and firefighters were allowed in to tend to the “wounded” a call came in advising that there was another unsafe situation inside the building — which Maxwell wouldn’t elaborate on other than to say that it was one of the “curveballs” built into the exercise — and the paramedics and firefighters had to be ordered out for a few minutes.
“Of course there are going to be things we see that could be done better,” Maxwell added. “That’s the intent of an exercise.”
Rhonda Swindle, UCAPD public information officer, said that this “curveball” was a call to UCAPD by a student who said that they were hiding in a closet, and officers had to treat this student as a suspect, though the exercise’s “shooter” had locked himself in a room and “killed himself” as UCAPD officers closed in.
Officials who participated in the exercise will meet Friday morning to finish compiling all notes and findings of exercise observers and arrive at final conclusions as to what worked well and what could be improved.