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Drill at Paulson a success

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Posted: May 15, 2008 8:48 p.m.
Updated: May 30, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Drill at Paulson a success

Two mock terrorists pretend to wreak havoc from the top of the Bishop Field House at Paulson Stadium Thursday as part of an emergency preparedness drill involving local and state law enforcement agencies.


    On one hand, it was a drill that tested the skills of local law enforcement and public safety officials. On the other hand, it was role playing at its best and an opportunity for those involved to have a little fun.
    Citizens passing by Georgia Southern University's Paulson Stadium may have wondered why helicopters were circling the football field, ambulances were parked around its perimeter and hordes of police cars filled the parking lots.
    They might have been a bit frightened upon hearing explosion after explosion and the clatter of gunfire from semi-automatic weapons, or the screams for help.
     But it was only a drill.
     Georgia Southern University hosted local, state and federal law enforcement, as well as local medical and emergency response personnel  who participated in an "emergency preparedness drill." The scenario was a shooting incident at the stadium, and those participating acted out their parts as if the danger was real.
    In fact, the exercise was so realistic, an uninformed onlooker would likely have thought there truly were gunmen on top of the Bishop Building, firing away at anyone they spotted.
    Local media were present as well, and participated in the drill by asking questions during a press conference.
    
Paulson Stadium drill
    The drill focused on law enforcement dealing with the following scenario – 11 people, including eight law enforcement officers, were killed in a shootout at Georgia Southern University's Paulson Stadium.
    The information was reported by Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge John B. Edwards as part of the drill and delivered like it was real.
    In the drill scenario, two gunmen opened fire upon a crowd of about 18,000 as fans got ready to watch a GSU football game. GSU Police Chief Ken Brown also was part of the mock press conference. The information included the status of the gunmen, with one possibly dead and the other in custody.
    The drill began around 9 a.m. when Bulloch Central 911 operators dispatched law enforcement and public safety personnel to the stadium, where there were reports of shots fired.
    Participating in the drill, reporters and other media personnel were directed to an area at GSU's Recreation Activity Center, where they awaited information regarding the shooting incident.
    
Drill a success
    After the drill was over, around noon, law enforcement leaders expressed satisfaction that the exercise was a success.
    Everyone involved met at the Bishop Building for lunch, and several joking comments were overheard about "being killed too early" and thus not being able to participate further in the staged shooting incident.
    "I think it went really well," Brown said. "There were a number of problems that popped up, and  that was good. We will correct them ... if we do have a real incident in the future these problems won't plague us. We can assess our strengths and weaknesses."
    The purpose of the exercise is for training and to expose any weaknesses in the cooperative efforts between all agencies, he said.
    "I think it went well, too," said Bulloch County Sheriff Lynn Anderson. "It's a lot better to have these problems show up in ( a drill) than in a real shooting incident."
    The organizers of the exercise "threw us a few wrinkles we didn't know about," adding the element of surprise that would be present in a real-life situation.
    "The best crystal ball is a rear view mirror," Edwards said. "In trying to make order from absolute chaos, we did a good job."
    The cooperation between agencies is impressive, he said, adding that working together in the past when a large-scale party known as "Players Ball" took place in Statesboro on and around the GSU campus has helped local agencies build a strong bond.
    The exercise helped public safety officials as well, said Bulloch County Public Safety Director Ted Wynn.
    "Our job is to support law enforcement in an event like this," he said. "We got to test out mutual aid agreements today."
    Statesboro Police Chief Stan York said "I think it's pretty evident we have a pretty good base of understanding what we can do, and found out where our strengths and weaknesses are. We learned from this exercise and ... are better prepared in the future if such an event did occur."
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