It was a statement Augusta Technical College faculty said they never expected to hear: “An armed intruder is on campus.”
Moments after the announcement crackled over the intercom at the school’s Emergency Services Training Center, professors barked orders to students, doors slammed shut and the lights went out.
Outside the building off Lumpkin Road, a man brandishing a handgun paced the sidewalk looking for an entrance. Once inside, he tried the door handles leading to classrooms, reacting angrily when no one would let him in.
Suddenly, Augusta Tech’s Chief of Police Mike Anchor burst through the building’s front door, but he didn’t bother to reach for his sidearm.
“Scenario is over,” he yelled, and several volunteers emerged from their classrooms. The “intruder” placed the blue dummy handgun back into his pocket. Anchor said he was pleased with what he had seen.
For the first time Friday, Augusta Tech underwent several scenarios to train its four-person police force, as well as faculty and students, to cope with an armed intruder on campus.
“These types of events can happen anywhere,” Anchor said. “We need to make sure the faculty and staff are as prepared as they can be in the event that something like this happens, because if something does happen, it’s going to be mass chaos. We want to make sure our people are in control.”
After several hours of refresher classes, the officers tested scenarios to gauge how prepared they were to respond under pressure. Milder scenarios required faculty and staff to execute hard lockdowns, while more involved scenarios required all four officers in tactical formations sweeping the building’s interior.
One scenario required officers to talk down the armed intruder and take him into custody. Both the officers and the intruder were armed with plastic guns.
“Hopefully, it will never happen,” Anchor said about the scenarios. “Unfortunately, in our day and time, it is a real possibility. We want to make sure that our people are prepared to protect themselves and protect students until we can respond.”
The May 5 shooting of a student on the campus of Paine College was reason enough to conduct the exercise, said Brian Roberts, the director of student activities and public relations at Augusta Tech. He said the training emphasizes the importance of student safety in an educational environment.
“Holistically, this just fits right in,” he said. “We will do what we can, within our control, to be able to provide a safe campus for them to study at and achieve their goals.”
Anchor said he hopes to continue the event each year and eventually expand it to include sheriff’s offices in the counties where Augusta Tech has satellite campuses.
“From the law enforcement perspective, you can never be too prepared,” he said.