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A medical emergency at the Nova Scotia Community College’s Ivany campus led to the inadvertent triggering of a lockdown. - Tim Krochak
A medical emergency at the Nova Scotia Community College’s Ivany campus led to the inadvertent triggering of a lockdown. - Tim Krochak

A medical emergency at the Nova Scotia Community College’s Ivany campus in Dartmouth inadvertently triggered a lockdown Monday.

The mistake did not affect treatment of the person who needed medical assistance, said Kathleen Cameron, NSCC’s manager of external communications.

“They did call EHS and they responded quickly, so, as far as we’re aware, there was no delay because of the lockdown,” Cameron said Tuesday, although she could not disclose the nature of the medical issue or the person’s condition.

She said somebody activated the wrong emergency alert through the campus Situational Awareness and Response Assistant system, a.k.a. SARA. There are several stations with colour-coded pulls related to whichever emergency is relevant.

“There are three colours: there’s red, which is fire, blue, which is general security and medical emergency and yellow is the lockdown and major security threat,” Cameron explained. “So there was someone pulling something thinking they were reaching out for a medical incident and pulled the wrong one.”

Activating the yellow pull triggers an automated message that repeats itself until an all-clear is designated. Cameron said there may have been another, secondary notification sent out before the system was cleared.

NSCC took steps to offer help to anyone disturbed by the situation, she said.

“Because this was a false alarm and some people would have been affected by thinking that it could be real, the student services reached out and did offer any counselling or support to anybody who was bothered or upset by it.”

Managers did the same for their staff.

Every campus holds annual mandatory exercises for both fire alarms and lockdowns so people are used to it, Cameron said.

“It is unnerving so I can see how some people might be upset by it. That’s why we work to foster a culture of safety but then there are other things in doing so that might upset people. But ... certainly it’s an opportunity maybe to again remind people what each of the pulls are for.

“Unfortunately in this incident it was a false alarm but the incident that did need attention got attention.”

The emergency pull stations include a big sign that juts out from the wall in colours that match the situation. The pull itself also matches the colour code. There are also cards distributed explaining the colour codes as well as orientation sessions.

“We do do our best but it’s always a chance to see that we can offer some more reminders about where things are and what the colours stand for,” Cameron said.

“If anybody was upset by yesterday’s false alarm then we are sorry for that and do hope they reach out if they need any supports.”

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