West Campus’ VIPER 2015 (Valencia Interoperable Partners Emergency Response) on Friday, July 10, 2015, started with a bang — literally. Misty Ellis, security field supervisor and director of this full-scale emergency exercise, warned the Valencia faculty and staff members participating, “You will know when it begins.”
That we did, as a suspect armed with a shotgun began mock shooting — with simulated shotgun blasts — in the SSB, resulting in chaos, wounds and fatalities, with blood makeup and all.
VIPER tested the College’s Emergency Plan by utilizing real-world threat scenarios to test our capabilities and collaboration with more than a dozen partners from the Central Florida area, such as the Orlando Police Department, Orlando Fire Department and the University of Central Florida.
While Valencia employees anxiously waited, we could hear on a police officer’s radio that 911 had been contacted. Then, on that radio, there was a “Signal 43,” which meant that all police officers in the area were asked to respond and help was on its way.
A few minutes later, police surrounded the perimeter of campus and their first responders stormed in the SSB doors to search for the perpetrator. This was followed by entry of the SWAT team to continue the search and then the fire department to aid the numerous victims, including employees and students. And, the College used its new, high-powered speaker system, which is now located on West, Osceola and East campuses, to notify those on campus of the emergency.
Orlando Police Department set up a Mobile Command Center in the parking lot, where scribes took second-by-second notes of actions as shared by all commanders on the scene, and the highest ranking officer relayed information for next steps. The University of Central Florida also brought its Emergency Command Center to provide support. In addition, the Orlando Police Department’s Crisis Negotiation Center was on scene to provide assistance for the hostage and suicide threat situations that were to follow.
After the SSB shooter was apprehended, four additional scenes took place. In Building 6, a double scenario played out — a person on the roof threatened to jump and another hid on the third floor. In HSB, there was a hostage situation; and an active shooter ran into the woods.
“VIPER 2015 was a significant exercise for Valencia College as we practiced our response to some very intense and serious threats and how we work together with our Central Florida partners to make our response seamless,” said Paul Rooney, assistant vice president for safety, security and risk management. “Not only did our security and leadership teams rehearse how to respond, but our partners, including more than 200 members of our local police and firefighters, practiced their responses. All of this done on a Valencia campus makes our partnerships stronger and our reactions to an active threat situation quicker, resulting in a safer College for our students and employees.”
VIPER 2015 took more than one year of planning and preparation to provide a safe training environment for all parties involved, including media and surrounding civilian partners, and development of the confidential script that was used to test the plan.
If you’d like additional information on the crisis and emergency response exercise, contact Misty at email@example.com or extension 1047.