A call came over the scanner. “There has been an explosion in Atwood Memorial Center on the St. Cloud State University campus.”
Within minutes, police mobilized the scene and secured the perimeter ready to assess the situation, identify and arrest the suspect and provide aid to victims.
Luckily, this was a drill, but it was helping St. Cloud State and the region prepare for an actual large-scale emergency.
“The exercise relied on a community response to a large-scale situation,” said Jeffrey Oxton ’98, assistant chief of the St. Cloud Police Department. “Practicing and simulating events like this are crucial to ensuring our response to actual large-scale incidents and ensuring we are providing the best public safety possible.”
Local area emergency responders, hospital employees, volunteers and St. Cloud State employees played the roles of players, victims and observers during the three-hour exercise.
The exercise took place on campus with two different scenarios. The first was an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion in Atwood Memorial Center. The second included a hostage situation in the Integrated Science and Engineering Laboratory Facility. A third location in the exercise led investigators to Stearns Hall where the police department’s SWAT and Bomb squads found IED materials and a homicide inside a dorm room.
The day was successful before it began thanks to collaborations between departments in planning and the commitment from all participating agencies.
“An exercise of this magnitude demonstrates community investment and engagement in emergency preparedness,” said Rachel Mockros, emergency preparedness coordinator for St. Cloud Hospital/CentraCare.
“The St. Cloud area is fortunate to have like-minded organizations that have made dedicated efforts to work together and place public safety as the highest priority,” Oxton said. “The event was extremely successful, ultimately demonstrating the extreme value in organizations coming together to train, collaborate and learn about the resources available during a large-scale emergency.”
Though the main situations were on the St. Cloud State campus, the St. Cloud Hospital played a large role receiving victims from the scene. CentraCare-Monticello provided ambulance transport in support of Gold Cross.
A steady stream of volunteer victims arrived at the hospital’s Emergency Trauma Center where they were cared for throughout the hospital.
“All patient care departments and the majority of support departments participated in the exercise,” Mockros said. “Each department determined how many staff were needed to participate to assure the exercise would be played to its fullest extent while continuing day-to-day business.”
The exercise highlighted the importance of community relationships between St. Cloud State and responding and supporting agencies in the region.
“ The St. Cloud community is better prepared and has built even better relationships because of this exercise,” said Jennifer Furan Super, associate director of Public Safety at St. Cloud State.
“St. Cloud State is far better prepared for an actual emergency than we were just a few years ago. However, we still have things to learn and practice.”
St. Cloud State is committed to providing a safe and secure environment for its students, employees and guests. The safety of campus is a top priority, said St. Cloud State Interim President Ashish Vaidya.
“Seeing what this community is capable of when we work together demonstrates the utmost value in community partnerships,” Vaidya said. “ There were lessons learned in all aspects of the exercise that we will continue to improve on, but the level of communication and cooperation between agencies was defnitely a success.”
Representatives from 14 colleges and universities from around Minnesota observed the event.
Local participating agencies
- St. Cloud Police Department
- St. Cloud Fire Department
- Stearns County Communications Center
- Stearns County Sheriff’s Office
- Waite Park Police Department
- Sartell Police Department
- Sauk Rapids Police Department
- St. Joseph Police Department
- Minnesota VA Health Care System Police Department
- City of St. cloud Emergency Management
- St. Cloud Hospital
- Gold Cross Ambulance Service
- Minneapolis Bomb Squad
- Metro Bus
- Life Link
- Allina Health Ambulance
- CentraCare Health Ambulance
- Regional EMS Coordinator