Criminal justice students conduct biosecurity simulation

Actors in lifelike moulage makeup filled in details about a hypothetical tularemia outbreak for student sleuths.

On March 24, students in the Department of Criminal Justice Emergency Management course conducted a mock “biosecurity” crisis simulation from 12 – 3 p.m. in Radford University’s Heth Hall.

During the simulated exercise, students investigated a hypothetical biohazard: an outbreak of tularemia, a contagious bacterial infection. They first interviewed actors using moulage makeup to appear as infected individuals. From there they determined how the outbreak began and developed a suitable response plan.

Approximately 50 people participated in this exercise. The students and actors were joined by professional representatives from the Radford University Police Department and Office of Emergency Preparedness, Montgomery Regional Hospital, the Virginia Medical Reserve Core and the Virginia Department of Health.

Students taking the Emergency Management course have studied the core concepts of incident command and response this semester.

“We are testing for the ability to successfully design a response structure that will address all of the issues that this scenario brings to the table in as efficient and timely manner as possible,” said Stephen Owen, course instructor and professor and chair of the Department of Criminal Justice.

This included making sure that students could communicate well between public health and law enforcement, maintaining life safety by effectively addressing the medical needs of the scenario and testing the ability to manage public information through any media outlets.

“As the public health team we want to help people learn how to manage communicable diseases. We work closely with law enforcement on how to prepare when dealing with an issue that has a criminal component to it,” said Paige Bordwine, epidemiologist for the New River Health District.

Heth Hall was a flurry of activity as students tried to get their calls right. They were charged by Owen and the professional advisors to use the exercise to expand their knowledge further beyond the desk and textbook.

“I think it gives us more experience,” said student Allyson Yates. “There are a lot more people involved in a situation like this, or even a smaller situation, when you need to figure things out.”

Her classmate Chai Fuller agreed; she was glad to see how all the professional responders worked together.

“This exercise gives us more of an open eye of what emergency managers do. Being in there and questioning different things, you realize how you really do need both “ins” to figure things out,” said Fuller.

This exercise was a positive reinforcement of what students have learned in their course and helped to refine and sharpen skill sets that are needed in the field of work.

“We want students to have the opportunity to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and put it to practice before they go out as professionals to be faced with this type of situation,” said Owen.



Students and professional first responders worked together to puzzle out their response to the outbreak and a plan to control it.

Mar 31, 2016
Lisa Sheffer