A “worst case scenario” exercise shut down part of Bloomfield College this week, as police officers and actors simulated a gunman-hostage emergency on campus.
“We did this so the police would have practice in locating and resolving a shooter-on-campus situation,” said Jill Alexander, Director of Public Relations and Advancement Marketing at the college. “Because we’re located close to an urban center, and because this happens on college campuses all over the country, we wanted to make sure we were prepared.”
The simulation began at Clee Residence Hall, when a very real fire drill sounded at noon. After the Bloomfield Fire Department evacuated the students, the police secured the building.
At 12:34 pm, the campus community was sent the following text and email: “Police are handling a training drill in Clee Hall. Practice staying/sheltering in your location. More info soon.”
According to Alexander, the students and staff at the college were taken completely by surprise by the announcement.
“We kept it a secret because we wanted to keep it as real as possible,” she explained. Even the president of the college didn’t know about the exercise until an hour beforehand.
The action really began when campus staff member and "gunman" Heinz Nordmann, (of the Buildings and Grounds Department) and his “hostage,” Crystel Maldonado (from the Office of Student Leadership and Engagement) ran up to the top floor of the dormitory. As instructed, Maldonado screamed and five police officers charged in and disarmed Nordmann, who had been brandishing a non-working assault rifle. The officers, armed with real - but unloaded - weapons and real ammunition, led Nordmann out of the building in handcuffs. He was taken to a waiting ambulance, where the exercise ended.
Bloomfield Police Department Training Officer Sergeant Michael Cooper said afterward the simulation went “pretty well.”
“The officers went in the way they were trained to. They performed on their level of training,” he said. “It was a difficult building because the hallways were so narrow. The officers went in shoulder-to-shoulder. One officer commented that the building was a ‘fatal funnel’.”
“We had a floor plan but the team of five officers going in there knew nothing,” said Thomas Pelaia, Office of Emergency Management Coordinator for the Township of Bloomfield. “They had the element of surprise.”
Participating agencies in the simulation were: Bloomfield Township OEM, Bloomfield Township police department, Bloomfield Township EMT, Bloomfield College Emergency Response Team, two actors from Bloomfield College and two observers from the college.