Representatives from Tarleton State University departments and emergency agencies across Stephenville and Erath County gathered on campus last week for a “tabletop drill” to train for readiness.

The four-hour exercise involved fictitious exposure of students and staff to a dangerous virus during a study abroad trip. Staff members divided into groups to address operations, planning, logistics, communications, and finance and administration.

The scenario required deploying emergency personnel and developing action plans. Participants were grouped into functional areas and assigned “injects” in line with reasonable assumptions, explained Kirk Turner, Tarleton emergency management coordinator.

“These mixed groups worked through their ‘injects’ in a very organized manner and ultimately guided the issue to a successful conclusion,” he said. “We will take lessons learned and update our emergency procedures as needed.”

These drills bring together relevant parties — fire, police, emergency management, utilities, local hospital, etc. — to play out scenarios and discuss mitigation steps in real-life order. They fine tune strategies and are held annually to enhance preparedness in case an incident happens requiring the university’s Emergency Operations Center.

“This training effort is aimed primarily at university members who have responsibility to manage these issues,” Turner said, “but we’re careful to also include stakeholders across jurisdictional lines such as the city of Stephenville, Erath County and Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital, who are responsible for providing critical assistance to the university.

“We as a university have a responsibility to be prepared in the event of an emergency. Since emergency situations come in all forms and are never scheduled, we conduct regular training exercises to ensure our preparedness.”