The active shooter drill scheduled for March 21 is not in response to a specific incident, but is instead intended to familiarize the community with crisis protocol and to work out any potential kinks in the University’s emergency operations, according to Vice President for Campus Operations Jim Gray.

The drill, which will take place in the library, will include realistic gunshot sounds and simulated injuries. Some students and staff members will play mock victims, Gray explained in an interview with the Justice and the Brandeis Hoot.

This type of drill is common practice on college campuses, Gray said, adding that it is standard best practice to familiarize the campus community with emergency procedure. 

“We can position ourselves to be better able to lessen the tragedy if we plan and think about this as a community and as law enforcement and coordinate with the local authorities as well,” he said. “It’s not in response to any particular threat, it’s not because we think we are more at risk, … of having a shooter incident on campus. It’s just to do the sorts of things we need to do to keep our community as safe as we can, and to hopefully make sure people are thinking about what they need to do if a real incident plays out.”

In a Feb. 5 email announcing the drill, Director of Public Safety Ed Callahan wrote that the exercise will involve Brandeis University Police, BEMCo, Waltham Police, the Waltham Fire Department, Bentley University Police and Cataldo Ambulance staff. The Office of Communications and senior administrators on the Incident Command Team will also play a role, according to Gray. 

Though University Police will be engaged in the drill, the Public Safety switchboard will still be manned, and Gray emphasized that the officers can be redirected quickly in the event of an actual emergency. 

In planning the exercise, the University engaged the help of a consultant from security consulting firm Margolis Healy, according to Gray. The University also received input from Waltham Police and the Waltham Fire Department, both of which have experience in running similar drills.

The library will be cordoned off during the drill, which is set to take place between 6 a.m. and noon. The drill itself will take approximately three hours, Gray said. He explained that the library was chosen because it is centrally located on campus and because few classes are held there, thereby minimizing disruption. 

In the lead-up to the drill, the University will use social media and send out emergency alerts via the Brandeis Emergency Notification System. There will also be an electronic sign at the entryway, as well as notices posted at entrances across campus. Gray added that he has also notified the surrounding neighborhoods.

“The word ‘drill’ will be everywhere,” Gray said, adding, “We don’t want anybody hearing the mock gunshots and feeling like there’s a shooter, obviously. We’re very concerned that somebody might nonetheless fall through the cracks, so we’re trying to take every precaution to make sure we over-communicate and carefully communicate to the right audiences on this important event.”

If an actual emergency occurs during the drill, the University will send out alerts that read “this is not a drill,” according to Callahan’s email. 

The upcoming drill is part of the University’s attempts to improve campus security and emergency preparedness, which included an active shooter training video that was emailed to the community in September 2017. Most community members have not watched the video — in fact, according to Gray, only about 25 percent of the community has viewed the video as a result of the emails. However, he noted that this may be an underestimate, given that the video is now shown at orientations. 

Notably, the role-playing drill will help administrators identify potential weaknesses or areas in need of improvement in the University’s emergency protocol. 

“You walk through the drill to understand how these things play out in real time … and you do these things to learn things you hadn’t thought of before,” Gray said. “So it’s a certainty that in the heat of the drill itself, several things will present themselves to us that we had not considered and that might allow us, we hope, to consider them, react to them, prepare for those sorts of things and be more ready in the event that an actual incident were ever to happen.”

Administrators will debrief after the drill, though any resulting report will probably be confidential due to the sensitive safety information it may contain, Gray said. 

As for future years, Gray said that the University will likely run more active shooter drills, albeit not every year.