NMMI Cadets and staff evacuate the campus during a gas leak drill in coordination with first responders, Wednesday afternoon. (Mark Wilson Photo)
New Mexico Military Institute evacuated its campus Wednesday during a drill to test its emergency response.
In keeping with federal and state legal requirements, NMMI Public Information Officer Carl Hansen said the drill was an effort to evaluate the Institute’s procedures to keep its cadets, staff and faculty safe.
“This is a drill, but we are going to play it like it’s the real thing,” he said. “We need to get it into the minds of cadets and faculty to move smartly, to get to evacuation sites in short order.”
This was the first mass evacuation drill the Institute has had, he said, and there are several more planned. For example, due to recent school shootings, one such drill will test preparedness in the event of an active shooter.
The drills allow the Institute to examine its strengths and weaknesses in dealing with emergencies, he said, and how it can resolve issues, such as what measures to take for disabled people and campus visitors. After each drill, the Institute will review what happened and how to improve.
“You can never dream up all the possible situations,” he said. “But we’re going to try. It’s all predicated on us getting better at what we do.”
The situation presented during this drill was that the Office of the Commandant activated the Institute’s emergency response plan after receiving reports of natural gas leaks at various locations across campus.
Hansen, along with members of the Institute’s Emergency Management Group monitored how cadets, faculty and staff behaved from the Emergency Operation Center inside the Daniels Learning Center. Stretched across a large table in the room was a map detailing all 300 acres and 21 major buildings of the campus.
Cadets, faculty and staff assembled at two different off-campus evacuation sites, where roll was taken to ensure all were accounted for. Hansen said the Institute notified parents prior to the drill.
Several local emergency response agencies and representatives from the New Mexico Gas Company also participated in the drill, which Hansen said allowed the Institute to observe how first responders perform and how the emergency plan could be changed to work better with their procedures.
“All the agencies involved are here to help assist NMMI in achieving their objectives,” said Roswell Police Department Public Information Liaison Sabrina Morales.
Emergency response units were on the scene, within three minutes of the Institute notifying them, said Karen Sanders, Emergency Management director.
As emergency manager, she said the drill allowed her a small-scale training opportunity to ensure the coordination between all the various agencies.
While all operate independently, “in the event of an emergency, they all come together as public servants,” she said.