FARMINGTON — The drill was about lessons learned as local police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel responded to a mock scenario of a gunman shooting students in a classroom building on the campus of the University of Maine at Farmington on Friday.

It was also about learning to work together, Franklin County Emergency Management Director Tim Hardy said during a debriefing after the drill.

The Homeland Security-funded, full-scale exercise was planned to provide a complex but realistic problem requiring quick problem-solving and effective responses by trained personnel.

It was acknowledged as one of the first of its kind — and the first of this magnitude — in a recent national Federal Emergency Management Agency publication, Hardy said.

Representatives from Bowdoin, Husson University and Thomas and St. Joseph’s colleges watched the scenario unfold. Plans for similar drills on their campuses are being considered, Farmington police Deputy Chief Shane Cote said.

The scenario started with a mock shooter in the classrooms of Preble Hall. Minutes later, a bomb exploded in a car parked down the street.

In the scenario, three people were killed and 16 injured in the two events, said Deputy Chief Clyde Ross of the Farmington Fire Department.

Volunteers, mostly students, played wounded victims covered in fake blood. Two were killed in Preble Hall, along with the gunman, who was shot by UMF police Chief Brock Caton. The gunman was played by Caton’s twin brother, Richard.

About 200 people were involved, including police and firefighters from several towns and the county, U.S. Border Patrol, ambulance personnel, responders from Evergreen Behavioral Services and Tri-County Mental Health Services, volunteers, the hospital and evaluators who observed the event.

The exercise took nearly two years to plan.

Two smaller exercises, hosted by UMF, followed the federal Homeland Security exercise and evaluation program.

The training with UMF began after police Chief Ted Blais, former director of Public Safety at UMF, commented on security events that had occurred on campus and other campuses around the country.

Friday’s exercise brought everything together in a dramatic scene with responders reacting to not only the scene, but to other issues that developed.

As police secured Preble Hall and NorthStar Emergency Services paramedics went in to treat victims, a car accident with injury in front of Hannaford was reported over scanners. Later, a burglary at Irving’s Big Stop was also announced. Neither really happened, but dealing with them in the midst of a crisis was part of the training. 

Maine Emergency Management Agency receives approximately $2 million of Homeland Security funds, Lynette Miller of MEMA said. This figure is down from the more than $7 million received after 2001.

About 80 percent of those funds are used for similar local training exercises across the state and for equipment, especially for communication, she said.

“We try to make the funds work as well as we can at the local level,” she said of the exercise which helped teach multiple agencies to work together in any type of event.

Friday’s exercise went well, according to Hardy and UMF’s Caton. It was a collaborative effort that was very educational, Caton said.

“I want to applaud UMF and the way the university opened their campus to this exercise,” Hardy said during the debriefing. “This type of interaction provides a lasting foundation for continued cooperation that will benefit the whole community.”

UMF’s goal in this effort was to test its communication systems and response times, as well as to provide regional insight into the best practices in emergency preparedness.

A final report on the exercise will be compiled in a few weeks, Hardy said.

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