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Representatives from 23 departments and 10 agencies gathered on campus last week for a tabletop emergency management exercise.

“Leadership and participation from numerous campus departments and working with our local partners are critical to creating a safe and resilient campus,” said Brian Gard, director of UT’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM). “Public safety professionals facilitate our preparedness efforts, but everyone has a role.”

The scenario: a campus shooting in a classroom building during a spring semester weekday morning that results in multiple fatalities and injuries. The same scenario will be the basis of a large-scale emergency drill that will be staged, with actors portraying the assailant and victims, in 2018.

The group talked through the live shooter scenario in four segments as if the drama were unfolding in real time. A large map of campus was projected onto a screen as emergency responders took turns talking about where they’d stage rescue operations, cordon off streets, gather witnesses, and hold media briefings.

“Talking through a wide range of possible events, whether they be shootings, weather events, or other incidents that could disrupt our campus and community, is important,” Gard said. “These exercises give key players from various involved agencies a chance to get to know each other without the chaos of a real-life situation. As we work through a staged event, we learn our strengths, see the gaps in our plan, and can address some of these problems before a real emergency occurs.

“You can never plan for everything, but any preparation we can do will serve us if—and when—something major does happen.”

OEM provides training and tracks the training of campus employees who play a role in emergency preparedness and response. Everyone with an emergency role must participate in at least one event offered by OEM each fiscal year. OEM holds multiple smaller drills and a large-scale campus exercise, like this tabletop exercise, each year.

In addition to OEM, campus departments involved in the tabletop included the UT Police Department, Finance and Administration, Student Life, the UT Institute of Agriculture, UT Athletics, the Office of Communication and Marketing, General Counsel, Human Resources, Office of Research and Engagement, the Office of the Provost, Parking and Transit Services, Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Services, the Office of Information Technology, Employee Relations, the Student Health Center, the UT System President’s Office, the Office of the Registrar, Risk Management, Alumni Affairs, RecSports, and the Office of Fleet Management.

Participating community agencies included the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, the Knoxville Emergency Management Agency, the FBI, the Knoxville Police Department, American Medical Response, the Medical Examiner’s Office, Knoxville Fire Department, the American Red Cross, and the Tennessee Homeland Security District.