Morris County and local law enforcement agencies worked with the College of Saint Elizabeth Tuesday to simulate a crisis-level situation, as a test of their preparedness. No actual emergency took place on the college campus.
Volunteer actors played the parts of victims and perpetrators, as law enforcement and college officials addressed the simulated emergency at hand. Only a small group of coordinators knew the details of the emergency and how it was expected to play out; the police and other first-responders addressing the situation did not.
Patch was invited by local authorities to play a part in this drill, simulating its own reporting on the crisis, so that local authorities could test their ability to communicate effectively with media and the public during such an event. The story reported below is the product of that effort; .
Again, no actual emergency took place on the campus of the College of Saint Elizabeth. This was only a drill.
The campus of the College of St. Elizabeth in Florham Park has been secured after a violent rampage that left four people dead and 22 injured.
Six people, including one man who took his own life, are believed to be responsible for the incident, according to Capt. Jeffrey Paul, a spokesman for Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi. The four men and two women were armed with explosives and firearms and took multiple hostages during a crisis that brought law enforcement and first-responders from throughout the county swarming on the campus.
Identities of the alleged shooters and the victims are still being withheld by authorities. It was not immediately known if any of either were students or faculty members of the college. [NOTE: This is just a drill. No one was actually killed or injured].
Paul said authorities were notified of a suspicious white male carrying a dark-colored backpack in Henderson Hall Tuesday at about 8 a.m. The male was observed fleeing on foot after witnesses heard what sounded like gunshots, Paul said, and students began to run from the upper floors toward exits.
Police were notified by a witness that there was an individual "killing people," Paul said, in a third-floor lecture hall. The shooter was confronted by police in the lecture hall and turned a rifle on himself rather than submit to an arrest, Paul said.
His backpack was found to contain an improvised explosive device, Paul said.
Two of the alleged attackers, one of whom was said to have an explosive device strapped to his body, held four hostages in O'Connor Hall, a student residence. At Founders Hall, another student residence, two more alleged attackers, both female, held an additional hostage, Paul said. [NOTE: This is just a drill. There were no actual hostages].
According to Paul, FBI and Morris County negotiators were able to successfully negotiate the release of all hostages and the surrender of the five living shooters. Authorities moving through the buildings successfully defused the multiple improvised explosives discovered.
All hostages were unharmed and the 22 injured people were transported to three area hospitals.
College security locked down the campus soon after the shooting began and emergency notifications were immediately sent out via email and phone messages, according to Donna Marie Lindemeyer, the college's director of communications and marketing.
"Our priority, along with the college, is the safety and security of anyone on campus," Paul said at that time. Teams were securing the buildings and bringing students to safety, he said.
Officials set up space at the Madison Hotel in Morris Township for family members to be briefed by authorities and be reunited with their relatives who were on campus during the incident.
Several law enforcement agencies responded: The Florham Park Police Department, the Morris County Prosecutor's Office, the Madison Police Department, the Chatham borough and township police departments, the Long Hill Police Department, the Morris Township Police Department, the Morris County Shriff's Office, the Morris County Park Police and the FBI out of Newark. Non-law enforcement agencies responding included: Florham Park EMS, the Morristown Ambulance Squad, the Morris Minute Men First Aid Squad, the Chatham First Aid Squad, Florham Park's Office of Emergency Management, the Morris County Department of Law and Public Safety and the Summit-based Colonial Crossroads Red Cross.
The first-responders worked in tandem with college staff, who operated out of a command post separate from that used by the emergency personnel.