When it comes to emergency preparedness at Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine, Randy Edwards says it is a necessity, an avenue for readying for the worst and ensuring that faculty, residents, students and staff have the tools they need to stay safe.
“As an institution, we are committed to providing a safe and secure environment for everyone and we’re going to do everything we need to do to make that happen,” Edwards, the medical school’s Director of Facilities and Chief Safety and Security Officer, said recently. “That’s a big important commitment and the commitment comes to life through a lot of things that we do.”
WMed holds fire and tornado drills regularly during the year at the W.E. Upjohn M.D. and Oakland Drive campuses, as well as other facilities, including the WMed Innovation Center and the Department of Psychiatry at the Borgess North Professional Building on Gull Road.
In previous years, the medical school has also conducted biohazard and epidemic drills, as well as infant-abduction drills.
More recently, however, Edwards said a hazard vulnerability analysis, which is conducted regularly, identified the opportunity for an active shooter drill at WMed facilities. In response to the results of the analysis, an active shooter drill was held Dec. 14 at the the Oakland Drive Campus.
The 10-minute drill gave faculty, residents, and staff at the Oakland Drive Campus, as well as other building tenants, including employees at WMU’s Unified Clinics, an opportunity to practice evacuation routes in the event of an active shooter and determine safe places to hide if an accessible escape path wasn’t available.
At the conclusion of the drill, participants took part in a 25-minute debriefing. Edwards said the debrief and an evaluation were beneficial because it gave participants a chance to point out security strengths and weaknesses at the Oakland Drive Campus and those conversations have already led to discussions about improvements at the facility.
“It went really well,” Edwards said of the Dec. 14 drill. “The participants appreciated this in that we gave them an opportunity and the tools they need to think about things like, ‘Where would I run or hide, or fight’ and then we spread that into what they could do in their own personal life during an incident like this.
“The idea is that they can teach others and spread that information. That’s really important for us. We want to make people understand what to do when they’re with us, but then take those things and be able to do something if it occurred somewhere else.”
Edwards said each department at WMed has designated emergency coordinators who have received training on the different safety drills that occur at the medical school and those coordinators take an active role in being prepared and knowing what to do to keep themselves and others safe.
“It’s the idea that there are people within each department and geographic areas in a building who … take an active role in being prepared and knowing more than the average person,” Edwards said. “They have an extra job to do and they do it really well. They took their roles seriously” during the active shooter drill.
Edwards said he was encouraged by the success of the active shooter drill on Dec. 14. In the days after the exercise, he said he heard from drill participants who said they practiced similar scenarios at home with their families and had family discussions about what they would do in the event of an active shooter at other locations in the community such as schools and malls.
Edwards said the drill in December was the first active shooter drill the medical has held. Given the success of the drill, he said similar drills will be held at all WMed facilities in 2017.
“It’s a necessity,” Edwards said. “I think everyone walked away being better informed and they took away things they didn’t know before.”