To prepare for the unthinkable event of a campus shooting, Grayson College students, faculty and staff, volunteers from the community, and several representatives of local law enforcement convened Saturday morning for an active shooter drill on the college’s main campus.

To prepare for the unthinkable event of a campus shooting, Grayson College students, faculty and staff, volunteers from the community, and several representatives of local law enforcement convened Saturday morning for an active shooter drill on the college’s main campus.


"It’s really a tragic time when we have to think about (a shooting) happening on college campuses, but it happens everywhere," said College President Jeremy McMillen, "and so we want to be prepared in case that happens."


The biggest purpose of Saturday’s drill was to test three of the campus communication systems, said GC’s Director of Public Safety Services Andy MacPherson. Those systems were the phone and email emergency notification system "Grayson College Alert," 911 calls and the "run, hide, fight" emergency protocol, in which those on campus are instructed to "run" and "hide" from the shooter and, if necessary, "fight" the shooter.


While GC has conducted similar drills in the past, this was the first drill that used a larger group of volunteers, MacPherson said. Past drills used only participants affiliated with GC. Saturday’s drill included participation from members of the Sherman PD, Denison Fire Department, Texas Highway Patrol, Collin County Sheriff’s Office and other agencies.


Other participants came as representatives from the Denison Caterpillar branch and from local churches. They participated to bring back preparedness techniques to their respective business or church.


Most of the drill took place in the campus’s health science building. To mark the beginning of the drill, an officer shot off four shots from an AR-15 loaded with blanks outside the Irma Blackburn auditorium. This prompted a group of civilian volunteers to run down the hallway. The group then ran screaming out of the west exit while GC campus police entered the building. Police searched until they found the shooter, who was in the Irma Blackburn auditorium.


MacPherson chose to use the health science building because its many classrooms and hallways would make the drill a bigger challenge for the campus police. Real gunshots were used because "it’s sobering to hear what gun fire sounds like in a building," he said.


While police searched the building, certain participants waiting in classrooms called 911 using a cell phone or land line and followed a script.


The participants who "died" in the exercise received orange stickers to wear on their chest. Participants who received "injuries" received yellow stickers. Survivors were given green stickers.


The drill ended when the campus officers apprehended the shooter, which happened around 9:40 a.m. During the exercise several participants, including law enforcement and civilians, oversaw the drill in order to critique it later.


Immediately afterwards, all participants gathered for a debriefing. MacPherson and McMillen agreed that, in many areas, the drill had been a success. Of course, the debriefing revealed many areas that need improvement.


Not all radio communication among the police could be heard clearly. Among the participants who expected to receive "GC alerts" on their phones, some received the alerts later than others. Others did not receive them at all.


Faculty member Traci Ward was in the Irma Blackburn auditorium during the drill, where she also teaches class. Ward had been unsure of how to lock the doors with push bars in the auditorium, she said. Brad Blankenship, director of the Texoma Regional Police Academy, showed Ward methods to keep the doors closed. Organizers noted that they will find a way to secure the push bar doors in emergencies.


"I think we’ve got some really good feedback on some areas we can improve upon, and I think there was some good feedback on what we did right," MacPherson said. "I think we’re miles ahead of where we’ve been"


The college’s goal is to hold more drills in the future that are on a bigger scale. MacPherson said he hopes to work toward holding drills with more participants and with EMS response.