Northeast Times

Preparing for the unexpected

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Joseph McBride, Holy Fam­ily Uni­versity’s dir­ect­or of pub­lic safety, said his de­part­ment is fully pre­pared for emer­gen­cies, at least on pa­per.

McBride, though, thought it would be be­ne­fi­cial to have a sim­u­lated shoot­ing at the uni­versity’s main cam­pus in Tor­res­dale.

“I wanted to test my de­part­ment’s read­i­ness to handle the situ­ation,” he said.

On a re­cent Wed­nes­day morn­ing, a man was “shot” out­side Mari­an Hall, at 4500 Grant Ave.

The gun­man ran in­to the build­ing and “shot” four oth­er people.

Wear­ing full gear, four mem­bers of the Phil­adelphia Po­lice De­part­ment’s SWAT team entered the build­ing with their guns drawn.

“On the ground, on the ground, on the ground,” they de­man­ded of the sus­pect, who ran up­stairs.

The po­lice of­ficers searched for vic­tims and ordered the gun­man to drop his weapon be­fore clear­ing the scene.

“Our first mis­sion is to stop the shoot­ing,” said Sgt. Bill Fra­zi­er, of the SWAT unit.

If the event had been a real emer­gency, the po­lice would have to rely on Holy Fam­ily per­son­nel upon ar­riv­ing on the scene.

“The se­cur­ity people would point us in the right dir­ec­tion,” Fra­zi­er said.

Of­ficers from the 8th Po­lice Dis­trict also took part in the train­ing that day. The crime scene unit was not on hand but would be if such an in­cid­ent hap­pens in real life.

Chief In­spect­or Joseph Sul­li­van, com­mand­er of the Home­land Se­cur­ity Bur­eau, over­saw the op­er­a­tion.

The SWAT team, based at 660 E. Erie Ave., has also worked with St. Joseph’s Uni­versity, Drexel, Penn, La Salle and Com­munity Col­lege of Phil­adelphia’s North­east and Cen­ter City cam­puses on shoot­ing and host­age situ­ations.

“We want dis­trict per­son­nel to have good train­ing. These kinds of ex­er­cises re­fresh people’s memor­ies and show se­cur­ity de­part­ments how im­port­ant in­form­a­tion is when we get on the scene,” Fra­zi­er said.

The Holy Fam­ily pub­lic safety de­part­ment is an ex­per­i­enced one. Most of its 42 mem­bers are re­tired Phil­adelphia po­lice of­ficers. They patrol round-the-clock at the uni­versity’s main cam­pus at Frank­ford and Grant av­en­ues and in Ben­s­alem and New­town in Bucks County.

McBride ex­plained that Holy Fam­ily stu­dents and staff are not per­mit­ted to carry guns on cam­pus.

In emer­gency situ­ations, a text mes­sage would be sent to all 2,900 people signed up for the ser­vice. There would be a gen­er­al lock­down on cam­pus, with doors elec­tron­ic­ally locked.

Be­fore the re­cent ex­er­cise, Holy Fam­ily aler­ted neigh­bors and St. Kath­er­ine of Si­ena Ele­ment­ary School and Naz­areth Academy high school and grade school of the pending po­lice pres­ence.

There was no real danger, as the bad guy and the po­lice of­ficers were us­ing Simuni­tion, which is non-leth­al train­ing am­muni­tion.

Capt. Steve Cross, of SWAT, said the ex­er­cise also be­nefited his of­ficers. They have to be pre­pared for some of the city’s most ser­i­ous situ­ations, in­clud­ing the mul­tiple shoot­ing deaths at the Kraft plant on Roosevelt Boulevard in 2010 and at a Web site design and mar­ket­ing firm at the former Phil­adelphia Nav­al Shipyard in 2007.

Cross cred­ited Holy Fam­ily and the city’s oth­er uni­versit­ies for wel­com­ing the SWAT team.

“This can hap­pen at a col­lege. It’s a tar­get-rich en­vir­on­ment,” he said.

As the ex­er­cise was tak­ing place, Holy Fam­ily’s seni­or ad­min­is­trat­ors had a great view from a second-floor con­fer­ence room in the Edu­ca­tion & Tech­no­logy Cen­ter. They also viewed the activ­ity on a tele­vi­sion mon­it­or and big over­head screen.

In real­ity, Holy Fam­ily’s com­mand cen­ter is loc­ated on the first floor of its Cam­pus Cen­ter.

“We’re very ap­pre­ci­at­ive that we were in­cluded in this type of ex­er­cise,” said Sis­ter Francesca On­ley, the uni­versity pres­id­ent. “We have a safe cam­pus, but this was a way for us to pre­pare if something oc­curs. We’d be gathered in one place where de­cisions would be made.” ••

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You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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