Harding University conducted its annual disaster drill Wednesday, April 18 in Benson Auditorium. This year’s exercise simulated the aftermath of a tornado.
“Every year, Harding’s emergency management committee works hard to affect real improvements and make our campus safer through an annual disaster simulation,” Director of Public Safety Craig Russell said. “This year we are working to create positive change in an even broader way. We are testing our ability to respond to a tornado striking campus in the large-scale drill. Earlier this semester we hosted a campus-wide severe weather awareness week, providing students and teachers specific information about what to do if a tornado occurred during class time.”
Since 2002, the University has coordinated a disaster drill every spring to facilitate a test of its emergency notification system and processes, allow practice for emergency communications protocol for administrators, and measure the timeliness of community first responders. The University cooperates with area emergency personnel including Searcy Fire Department, Northstar Ambulance Service, Searcy Police Department, Unity Health Hospital, and White County Office of Emergency Services. Previously staged events include simulations of an earthquake, fire, hazardous waste, explosion and active shooter.
According to Russell, the annual drill has helped create invaluable relationships between the University and local first responders.
“The work we have done over the years in building relationships between campus offices and our local emergency services providers has had a direct positive impact on those occasions when we have real fires, medical emergencies or other crises on campus,” Russell said. “These drills help us get to know each other, and work and practice together so that when the real thing happens, we know exactly what to do. This makes for a safer campus and a better community.”
Several academic programs within the University such as nursing, physician assistant, pharmacy, athletic training and counseling coordinated student participation in the event. Health sciences students acted as medical staff on the scene to triage students acting as victims. The University had nearly 200 participants.