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COC faculty, administrators participate in ‘shooter’ drill

Posted: December 18, 2013 1:20 p.m.
Updated: December 18, 2013 1:20 p.m.

Campus safety officer Frank Sanchez, foreground, and Tom Marshall rush through the College of the Canyons Learning Center as part of a mock school shooting drill Wednesday. Signal photo by Charlie Kaijo

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SANTA CLARITA - Two men, decked out in black gear and carrying fake guns, burst into The Learning Center on the Valencia campus of College of the Canyons Wednesday, their entrance accompanied by the rattling sounds of gunfire piped in over the room’s sound system.

Moving quickly, they made their way down a hallway to a series of rooms. One opened a door and entered.

Immediately he was set upon by a group of individuals who tackled him to the ground, rendering his fake firearm useless.

“They reacted and they did a really good job,” said Frank Sanchez, a member of the COC campus safety team who played one of the “gunmen” during Wednesday’s drill at the college.

The exercise was meant to train about 200 people who attended how to respond if an active gunman were to come to the campus.

“The point is to bring a large group of people together in a campus setting and teach them how to respond,” said Eric Harnish, a spokesman for the college.

Harnish said the college has done similar, smaller exercises but has never done anything on the same scale as Wednesday’s.
“We’ve undertaken a real concerted effort to make sure we’re prepared for an emergency on any kind of scale,” Harnish said.

Wednesday’s exercise also provided an opportunity for the college to test its emergency notification system, which automatically sends out electronic messages, including texts or emails, to students and faculty in case of an emergency.

“We have developed a system now over the last four, five years that is consistent with the system that’s in place at the federal government,” said Michael Wilding, the vice president of student services at COC.

Wilding said the college’s emergency system and plan were crafted at the insistence of COC Chancellor Dianne G. Van Hook and include robust training on how to handle an array of emergencies ranging from earthquakes to bomb threats.

“You got to prepare,” Wilding said. “And it’s part of our responsibility to our staff and to our students to be prepared to the extent that we can in any kind of emergency.

“And it will ultimately save lives,” he said.

That goal is the reason Sanchez, along with fellow safety team member Tom Marshall, volunteered to aid in Wednesday’s training exercise, even if it meant being tackled to the ground.

“It’s always better being safe than sorry,” Sanchez said.
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