First responders deal with active shooter scenario

Published 9:49 am Friday, January 6, 2017

A countywide active shooter training was held Thursday at Vicksburg High School.

The drill was the first of its kind in the county on such a large scale and comprised units from the Vicksburg Police Department, Vicksburg Fire Department, Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Warren County Fire Service, Warren County Emergency Management, Vicksburg Warren School District campus police and Vicksburg Warren 911.

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“That’s the way it would happen in the real world,” Emergency Management Director John Elfer said. “We are incorporating everybody. The value of this is not just practicing tactics, it’s the networking that goes on. It’s the conversations in the room where people may not have worked together before, that’s really the value.”

In the test scenario an active shooter call was dispatched from 911 and units responded to the school as they were called to the scene. At the school, officers encountered injured students, one or more shooters, shots fired while onsite and parents attempting to go in the school.

“We try to make it as real life as possible,” said Shane Garrard, Vicksburg Warren 911 deputy director. “We’re using simunition rounds where its actually little plastic bullets that when they hit you they explode little markers where you know you’ve been hit.”

Elfer said the training exercises tactics at the law enforcement level, EMS and fire response, multiagency coordination and the communications plan. Responders were also given an extra problem to work through other than the shooter.

“It’s not just training on how to stop an active shooter, that’s part of it, but it’s everything else that goes along with it to include management of parents and relocation of students,” Elfer said. “It’s gone really well. Just about everybody has had an opportunity to participate.”

A command post was set up at the school’s field house where Elfer and 911 director Chuck Tate listened to radio calls and evaluated the officers’ responses.

Garrard said the individual agencies have active shooter training at their academies, but this is the first one on this scale here.

“We just reiterate the skills they’ve already been taught,” Garrard said. “Our goal is to do it quarterly.”

The idea to hold a mass training came from the county emergency response team made up of multiple agencies. Tate said the campus police take on the role of the lead agency, and the training was led by school resource officer Rodney Lehman with assistance by Garrard.

“The whole operation has improved drastically,” Tate said of the multiple exercises held throughout the day.

Director of school safety Dewayne Sims said it is important for the agencies to be proactive and have training sessions like this to best serve the community during any crisis situation. He said the agencies now know what areas need improvement.

After the scenario, the first responders met back together to discuss what they learned, what went right and what went wrong.