School Shootings: Training For The Unthinkable
By Ken Smithgall
It was a warm spring day when a father and his son walked into
the office of an Elementary / Middle School. The father was
very upset because his son had been suspended for fighting at
school. The School Administrator was very familiar with this
family as they had several incidents involving this child in
the past. The office staff tried to calm the father and called
for the Principal.
As the Principal arrived at the office, the
father appeared to become more agitated and angry. After attempting
to calm the father and sensing no resolution, the Principal
called for the School Resource Officer (SRO).
This scenario set
the stage for an active shooter exercise designed for Marion
County Public Schools to fulfill their Safe Schools
Grant. An exercise planning team was comprised of representatives
from the public school system, Sheriff's Office, Fire Rescue,
County Health Department, local hospitals and the exercise contractor
(Trident Consulting Group llc.).
The primary objectives for the
exercise were to evaluate the local elementary schools response
to an active shooter, their lock down procedures and integration
into the ICS system as well as the district wide response from
administrative staff. Secondary objectives were reserved for the
first responders and hospitals which included On Site Incident
Management, Law Enforcement Response, Pre Hospital triage and
treatment, and Hospital Surge Protocol.
As the exercise played
out, the father pulled a handgun from his waist and shot the two
office staff members then attempted
to shoot the Principal. In the meantime the son pulled out an
assault rifle from a bat bag and attempted to make his way on
to the school grounds to retrieve his younger sibling. The School
Resource Officer arrived and was able to neutralize the threat
before it could escalate.
This was noted in the After Action Report
as a positive action as having a School Resource Officer assigned
to schools can reduce or stop these types of incidents. The exercise
was then reset and the scenario continued as originally written,
that the son would make his way through the school engaging targets
of opportunity then barricade himself in his siblings' class room.
the School Resource Officer pursued the young gunman, he encountered
injured students throughout the hall ways. (Local ROTC students
volunteered to play the part of students and victims) At the same
time the school was placed in lock down, teachers secured their
doors and huddled their students in back corners of the class
rooms. One teacher advised she could hear the bad guy trying to
open the door while the screams of injured were heard in the background.
The gunman made it to his siblings' classroom and barricaded himself
with hostages in the class. Additional zone units arrived and
assisted with securing the building and classroom.
Command Post was established by law enforcement and the Assistant
Principal was assigned to assist and represent the
school. The Principal was insuring that the school was in lock
down and directing the operations of his staff, making proper
notifications to the school district for response and trying to
assist wounded staff and students. Additional resources were requested
including the SWAT team and Fire Rescue. Within several minutes
a command officer from Fire Rescue was on scene and a unified
command was established.
Once the SWAT team arrived on scene, teams
were assigned to relieve the inner perimeter zone units providing
SWAT team personnel removed the injured from the hallways to a
secured area within the school. This area provided cover for Fire
Rescue teams to move the injured out to a medical sector for field
triage and treatment. A transport officer was identified and provided
the information to local hospitals on the number of wounded that
would be transported to each hospital. The hospitals initialized
their emergency surge protocols and started working on moving
and or discharging patients.
As the exercise played out, the young
gunman attempted to flee the building and engage the officers.
The threat was neutralized
and secured. The remaining classrooms were searched by the SWAT
team and students were escorted out of the building and searched.
The exercise ended and everyone reported for the "Hot Wash".
During the After Action Report for the exercise, issues are identified
that are both positive and areas for improvement. Both can be
considered lessons learned and should be relayed to the participants
of the exercise as well as the planners for the agencies involved.
About the Author
Ken Smithgall is the President and CEO of Trident Consulting
Group llc. Mr. Smithgall has spent his career serving the public
in both law enforcement and fire rescue fields. Mr. Smithgall
has chaired several emergency preparedness committees and served
on the State of Florida's Domestic Security Task Force.
This is only a partial version
of the article published in the latest Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland
for the full version of the article and many others like this,
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