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.” ••EndFragment