UNCA to Host Statewide Terrorism and Rescue Exercises;
Soon-To-Be Renovated Student Center to Serve as Site
UNC Asheville will host the largest terrorism and structural collapse
exercise ever held in the state beginning May 20 and running through May
24. The exercise, led by the N.C. Department of Insurance -- Office of
State Fire Marshal, will provide a final, dramatic use for UNCA's
Highsmith Center before its massive renovation begins this summer.
Response teams from a number of local, state and federal agencies are
expected to participate in the exercise, including those from the Federal
Bureau of Investigation, the State Bureau of Investigation, the N.C.
Office of Emergency Medical Services, Urban Search and Rescue Teams of
N.C., N.C. Department of Crime Control and Public Safety - Division of
Emergency Management, and others, according to Chrissy Pearson, spokesperson for the N.C.
Department of Insurance. This exercise also gives UNCA an opportunity to
hone its own disaster response capabilities.
The 35,000-square-foot Highsmith Center, with its concrete, brick and
steel structure, offers a rare opportunity for emergency responders to
test their trained life-saving skills in multiple casualty situations.
"There is very little opportunity for structural exercises of this
kind," said H. Reggie Goble, UNCA's safety officer. "We are
pleased that this operation can benefit all the agencies involved."
Operation Highsmith will be funded through the N.C. Department of
Insurance and the participating agencies.
Renovation and expansion of Highsmith Center is slated to begin in
early summer. Services that were housed in Highsmith, including the
bookstore, have moved to renovated space in the campus dining hall
building for the duration of construction. The new student center will
provide meeting and office space for student groups, a larger bookstore,
expanded space for the career center, a student newspaper office, a cafe
with outdoor seating, a play area for commuting students' children, a
campus post office and mailroom, a dining and performance area, an art
gallery, a computer lab, adequate office space for the Highsmith staff,
and recreation and public gathering areas.
Cost of the 74,000-square-foot Highsmith Center project is $14.2
million; $11.4 million of the funding was provided through the November
2000 statewide bond referendum. Lee Nichols Architecture of Charlotte is
the project designer.
- Stephen Baxley, UNCA Director of Facilities Management and Planning,
- Merianne Epstein, UNCA Public Information Director, 828/251-6676