Even before Sept. 11, 2001, TCU police officers were prepared to deal with potential terrorist attacks, a police official said. TCU Police Detective Kelly Ham has been trained to respond to nuclear, biological and chemical threats, including advanced certification in weapons of mass destruction, he said. The training was part of the Department of Homeland Security.
“Everybody is trained: when you get the call, you respond to the emergency,” he said.
Ham and TCU Police Chief Steve McGee were trained in 1999 by the Incident Command System, an on-site protocol that better prepares responders to organize and communicate at the scene of a catastrophe, Ham said.
“The main purpose of the system is for your assets to be deployed in a timely matter to the areas that they need to be,” Ham said.
Ham and McGee used their training in 2001, when TCU had several suspected anthrax contaminations. In each of these situations, including a letter filled with a harmless powder sent to the radio-TV-film department office, but TCU police were prepared with the appropriate equipment and knew what to do to keep the school safe, Ham said.
“Because of all the training we had been through, myself and Detective Vicki Lawson responded and knew the first thing we needed to do was to get the ventilation system shut down,” Ham said.
Even if nothing catastrophic happens, training is still important, Ham said.
“It’s about training, and being the best trained you can be for something you hope never happens,” Ham said. “Steve McGee had the insight to see the world was changing, so we got involved in it pretty early.”
Ham is also teaching training classes to first responders from all different branches, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and in locations all over the state, such as Houston, Amarillo, Austin, Fort Worth and smaller cities. He focuses on response to incidents involving weapons of mass destruction and improvised explosive devices.
“It’s a learning experience,” Ham said about teaching classes. “At the Amarillo one, there is a variety of experts in their different fields. When you start teaching people who are experts, who have been in law enforcement departments for any type of emergency response, they have all got stories.”
Some students, such as J.T. Carney, a freshman marketing major, said the training makes them feel more secure.
“It makes me feel safer knowing that they know how to deal with that kind of stuff,” Carney said.