More active shooter practice is needed

Last week for three days I attended an Active Shooter class put on by the Culpeper Sheriff’s Office.  The class was held at the Culpeper High School.  While the Sheriff’s Office has trained 90% (and maybe more) of all teachers, administrators, maintenance, cafeteria workers and bus drivers in all the schools on what to do during an active shooter event, this class was to train  new deputies and a recertification for experienced deputies and SWAT members.

The first day was spent going over tactical basics, use of the Sheriff’s rescue vehicle, procedures learning the school (maps), going over the identification system in all the Culpeper Schools (color coded system to show on school maps the  hallways, doors, windows etc.), outside command center procedures and debriefing students.  As a side line, all deputies are encouraged to go to every school with the School Resource Officers (SRO) and walk around using the school maps to gain knowledge of each school, grounds, and driveways.  We also learned that in this type of situation all the students and teachers will be taken to selected locations for debriefing.  Parents will be directed to pick up their children from that location. Elementary children will be handled differently and parents will be notified.  We went over numerous events that happened in other schools in the United States and what was learned from then (at Sandy Hook, for instance, all the roads were blocked by vehicles so ambulances coming on the scene couldn’t get to the school and had to walk almost a mile up the blocked road to get to the school).  Even though it is understood that parents are concerned about their children and their children’s safety, their presence is more of an hinderance than help in any shooter situation and  only qualified law enforcement  deputies will be able to go into a school or be in the  area around the school.

After this began the actual detailed training with formations in the hallways, and different tactics used today.  Everyone is shown how to clear rooms and bathrooms, use of hallways and control of hallways, the use and importance of shields, positions of weapons, walking backwards to protect your rear,  etc.  A lot of information and practice.  The second and third day was practicing the above and changing team leaders so everyone can take the place of another.

What is always amazing is watching the development of deputies from beginners and with intensive practice over three days how everything comes together.  Late in the third day two different actual role play scenarios took place with two shooters put in the school.  A command post was set up, radios carried by all and then all teams were sent around to acquire territory, get intelligence and neutralize the threat.  During the role plays (I was a gym teacher) I was trying to imagine an actual situation.  Sound in concrete buildings carries differently than outside or in houses, now with alarms going off, students trying to hide, find a classroom, leave the building, the screaming, shouting of an actual situation, it becomes very hard trying to pinpoint the location of the subjects, hence the need for teams and controlling territory.  Personally I believe more practice situations should be conducted using deputies, students, and teachers, alarms just as if it were real, etc., so as with everything in life practice makes perfect.

Robert Lehmann