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Emergency preparedness conversation changes after Connecticut shooting, University of Central Oklahoma officials say

by Silas Allen Modified: January 10, 2013 at 10:24 pm •  Published: January 11, 2013

Emergency preparedness is always a serious issue for college officials, and that point is driven home even more in the aftermath of a major crisis, officials said.

University of Central Oklahoma officials tested the university's ability to respond to an emergency situation at a training exercise Thursday.

Although plans for the exercise had been in the works since April, UCO emergency management coordinator Norman Nieves said the conversation about campus emergency management took on a different tone after a gun massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children and six employees dead.

“Everybody's eyes are on the schools right now,” Nieves said.

Joining UCO officials in the exercise were a number of other agencies, including the Edmond Police Department, Edmond Fire Department and the Emergency Medical Services Authority.

The training exercise included a simulated emergency in which three students had committed suicide by inhaling hydrogen sulfide gas in a bathroom in the UCO's West Hall, a women's dormitory.

According to the scenario, fumes from the gas had spread from the third-floor bathroom throughout the building, sickening other students who lived in the building.

Student and staff volunteers playing the building's residents told emergency responders about the symptoms they were experiencing and what they'd seen, heard and smelled in the building before becoming ill.

The simulation is the second full-scale exercise the university has held, Nieves said. UCO held a similar exercise at East Hall in 2003, he said.

Although Thursday's exercise wasn't held in response to any particular event, Nieves said university officials entered the exercise with the understanding that national attention has been turned toward campus safety.

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by Silas Allen
General Assignment/Breaking News Reporter
Silas Allen is a news reporter for The Oklahoman. He is a Missouri native and a 2008 graduate of the University of Missouri.
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