2014 Annual Emergency Exercise

Upcoming Exercise

We are now four months away from our Annual Exercise.  We want to keep everyone posted on planning for this event. As you know, we will be simulating an incident of violence here on our campus.  Our department and the Emergency Management Office are getting lots of questions about this year’s exercise because of the nature of the topic. 

We want to remind everyone that while this is a scenario we need to prepare for we should not lose site of the other types of emergencies that might affect our campus.  Tornadoes, transportation accidents, fires, hazardous materials emergencies, winter storms, major I.T. or communications disruptions, pandemics and a host of other possible problems still need our attention.

Your role in the upcoming exercise

With that said, we do want to help you understand your role in a scenario such as the one we will be simulating.  As an incident such as this unfolds it will progress through three distinct phases, those being the response, stabilization, and recovery phase.  Below is helpful information for the response phase and what you can expect while our officers are attempting to bring the situation under control.

Response Phase

The response phase is the period when the actual incident is taking place.  This phase starts when the suspect takes his first harmful action and continues until we are satisfied that no additional threat to the campus exists.  During this time your primary concern should be to protect yourself while officers from our department and other local police agencies do their job. A lot will depend on whether or not you are directly involved in the incident. 

If the incident occurs in or near your workplace you will have three choices for protective action.  These will be to run, hide, or fight.  Only you will be able to determine which of these is the appropriate response based on the incident at hand.  Remember, the priority should be to protect yourself.

Example­ – What if?

But what if the incident occurs on the other side of campus? This is a good question which requires some thought. Consider the following:  You are in downtown Chattanooga having lunch at one of the restaurants near Fourth and Broad.  While you are eating an incident occurs at the Aquarium.  Chances are, you might see a lot of police cars, but would have no information on what had happened until you heard it on the news.  It is almost certain that your restaurant would not be evacuated or “locked down”. 

Now, consider that the distance from the Aquarium to Fourth Street is about the same as the distance from University Center to the Metro Building.

Key differences

With that in mind, there are two key differences of which you should be aware. 

  • The first difference in this case rests in the fact that active measures will be taken to ensure that you know what is happening.  During the early part of the incident we will be working to notify the campus of the event.  Unlike our off campus example, you will know this event is occurring very soon after it starts. 
  • The second key difference, and the most important one, is an issue of targeting.  During the early minutes of the incident our officers will not know if the perpetrator has a specific target in mind or if the target is The University in general.  Remember, the VA Tech shooter actually committed his crimes in two separate buildings.  This means we cannot send the “all clear” until we know the individual has not simply gone to threaten another part of campus.

What you are asked to do, during an exercise or an actual event

This is why, if you are in a building not directly involved in the incident, you will be asked to secure your area and remain where you are until we and other local authorities can ensure that the threat no longer exists.  This process may take some time to complete.  Also, understand that you may be instructed to leave the campus once it is determined that it is safe to do so. 

You should also know that the decisions about allowing movement after the incident are made by the Chancellor’s Executive Team, with input for our Incident Commander in the field, and the Emergency Operations Team. 

There is one other very important way you can assist:

During the 2014 Exercise training event, please follow the same guidelines we’d need during an actual event and please:

  • PLEASE DO NOT CALL campus 9-1-1 or 4357 (HELP) for non-emergency matters, such as general information.  Our dispatchers will be focused on the safety of the community, gathering information relevant to the incident, and ensuring accurate information for responding officers from multiple agencies.
  • Also, the normal operations of the 9-1-1 center must continue which means the dispatchers will still be processing calls for medical emergencies, fires and, of course, any other criminal matters that come up.  Further, your call asking for information may cause operators to miss a call from someone with important information about the location or actions of the suspect.  Please help us by remembering that the dispatcher center is going to be a very busy place and you should NOT call there unless you need emergency assistance.


In short, if an incident of violence occurs in your building, you will need to decide to leave the area, lock yourself in a secure place, or fight if you must.  If the event takes place at another location on campus you should secure your area, stay where you are, secure your work area, and wait for additional instructions. 

If you have specific concerns with Public Safety, please contact me at 4004 or Deputy Chief Hamilton at 5290. If you would like help developing an emergency response plan for your office please contact Tim Pridemore or Jim Pulliam at the Safety/Risk Management Office ext. 2297. 

If you have any other questions or would like more detailed information on preventing and responding to work place violence please feel free to contact our office.

Thanks for your time!

Chief Robert K. Ratchford