News

University police prepare for the unexpected
Contact: Amanda Perez, Intern 381-2741
Posted: 09/04/2009
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Safety comes first for The University of Texas-Pan American Police Department. On Aug. 21, UTPA police hosted an active shooter drill at Troxell Residence Hall to train officers and other campus emergency personnel on how to handle an emergency situation.

This is the first year that UTPA police organized an active shooter drill with a scenario and actors. Staff and students volunteered to participate in the exercise. In past years, table top discussions were held to discuss particular scenarious and how they would be handled.

Sargeant David Hinojosa of the UTPA Police Department is shown making an emergency call during the Active Shooting Drill held on the campus Aug. 21.
"The purpose of this drill is to ensure we are prepared and ready if there is ever an active shooter on campus," said Roger Stearns, UTPA police chief. "The more effective we are, the quicker the situation is handled and the more lives we save."

Participants in the active shooter drill included staff from the Counseling Center, Environmental Health and Safety, Residence Life and other staff and student volunteers. Officers from the Edinburg Police Department and the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District also participated. Stearns said, in case of an emergency on campus neighboring law enforcement agencies would respond in cooperation.

All volunteers were briefed prior to the drill to make sure that all training was conducted in a safe manner. Everyone had a role in conversations and the scenario to increase awareness and survival probability in case of an actual emergency. Post incident response was also practiced to ensure that the Counseling Center had the resources needed to effectively serve students, faculty and staff.

The active shooter scenario involved a boyfriend, ex-girlfriend situation. The boyfriend was distraught after being broken up with and was emotionally troubled. He blamed her for failing a test and being sent home from work. In response to his emotions, he entered Troxell Hall with a gun with intentions of using it on his ex-girlfriend. He shot her and her friend. Both were found dead at the scene.

"This scenario was treated as an actual event," Stearns said. "We received the phone calls and responded quickly to the situation. We alerted the campus with Bronc Alert by sending out test phone calls, text messages and e-mails."

In an actual emergency, Bronc Alert will be used to notify the campus of the situation and its location. Students, faculty and staff will receive instructions on how to remain safe.

Stearns said there are ways everyone can join the efforts in keeping UTPA safe.

"Everybody should sign up for Bronc Alert and if anyone sees or hears anything suspicious call University police immediately," Stearns said. "We would rather have the situation be nothing at all, than it turn into a crisis later."

There is another active shooter drill planned for next year.

Students, faculty and staff can sign up for Bronc Alert at http://www.utpa.edu/emergency/. For more information on the active shooter drill, Bronc Alert or to report any suspicious activity call University police at 956/316-7151.