Pine Belt universities prepare for emergency

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - What happens when a shooter opens fire in the dormitories, the classrooms, or is loose on campus? That was one of the questions local university officials were addressing Tuesday at a emergency preparedness seminar held at William Carey University.

The seminar is a Department of Homeland Security project contracted to the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training, and is meant to coach representatives sent by universities - whether deans, police officers or security personnel - in what to do is some of the worst case scenarios a school could imagine.

"This is campus security in general," said WCU Professor Walter Cooper. "Anything that would affect campus security from you know students in dorms to sports events to graduation - so it's overall security for small campuses."

A key exercise during the seminars includes running the officials through hypothetical scenarios that universities often don't practice for - things like fires, shootings, or a biomedical contamination.

"People don't want to talk about it. They want to push it under the water and say 'Eh, not gonna happen here,' " said Michael Fagel, the NCBRT seminar director. "But it can happen anyplace. If you just do a Google search on school shootings you would just be absolutely appalled at the amount of shootings that have happened since 1928. You take them all the way up to April of 2012 and you can look at those numbers and it will scare the daylights out of you."

Fagel is a long-time government employee and a veteran of disastrous incidents including the shootings at Columbine and the Oklahoma City bombing.

The seminar runs for two days and Cooper says the William Carey hopes to make it an annual event. This year about 10 schools are participating including Jones County Junior College, Pearl River Community College and Belhaven University.