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Newhouse emergency scenario brings together students, law enforcement agencies
Newhouse emergency scenario brings together students, law enforcement agenciesAugust 02, 2007Kevin Morrowkdmorrow@syr.edu
Newhouse School faculty and Syracuse University’s Department of Public Safety staged a mock emergency recently to provide “breaking news” for 93 master’s students to report. The students are enrolled in the Magazine-Newspaper-Online, Arts Journalism, Public Relations or Public Diplomacy programs at Newhouse.
This was the ninth year of the annual summertime collaboration. The scenario this time involved a gunman and a hostage situation in Lawrinson Hall, a high-rise residence hall on the SU campus.
The back story: The gunman, from Hoboken, N.J., is the ex-boyfriend of an SU student living this summer in Lawrinson Hall. He and another man from Hoboken, a hardened criminal and arms dealer, are on their way to Canada to pursue a get-rich scheme. They stop in Syracuse so the first suspect can try to persuade his former girlfriend, a current SU student, to join them. When the suspect arrives at her residence hall and she continues to rebuff him, the suspect becomes agitated and loud. When SU Public Safety officers arrive following a report of a quarrel, the suspect panics, firing on the officers and barricading himself and the girl in her room.
Dozens of SU students and staff participated as actors. The journalists in training faced several challenges trying to follow and process all that was occurring on the scene, exacerbated by the fact that what likely would have transpired over the course of many hours was compressed to less than two hours to enable the students to complete their assignment within the course’s allotted time frame.
In addition to providing the Newhouse students with subject matter for deadline reporting, the situation doubled as a training exercise for the participating agencies, including the Syracuse Police Department, FBI, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry University Police, SU Ambulance, SU’s Office of Residence Life and Division of Public Affairs, and Rural/Metro Medical Services.
While somewhat reminiscent of the tragic events at Virginia Tech last April, the mock emergency was actually conceptualized two months prior, in February 2007, by SU Public Safety Deputy Chief Drew Buske and Newhouse instructor Emilie Davis. Following the Virginia Tech situation, the decision was made to proceed with the scenario, as the tragedy in Blacksburg has reinforced an imperative among university responders and law enforcement agencies across the country to be vigilant and prepared for a potentially violent situation on campus.