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‘Active shooter’ drill a success

‘This is going to be loud.’ With those words, Lamar County sheriff’s Sgt. Brett Newman fired a fake bullet from an M-16 rifle, calmly called in the first shot, then put on a tactical mask and became a deranged, tactically trained ex-SWAT team member determined to take down the local high school (for some strange reason). The annual Lamar Emergency Planning Committee hazardous materials drill had begun, complete with 911 calls, a code red school lockdown and as many public safety officers who could be there at the scene, recreating a little of the chaos of a normal school day. Two of his co-workers, Ricky Fallings and Sgt. Mike Bailey, had Newman ‘lying wounded’ on the floor exactly one second less than two minutes later in what was called an effective stop and drop. ’I was pleased with the way they took the threat out,’ said Gordon police chief Jeff Mason, an evaluator. ‘If we can isolate and understand what we need to do differently we can train our people.’ Students wearing moulaged wounds barely had time to get into their dramatic screaming fits before they were taken to the triage area where an EMA team was waiting outside. ’It happened so fast it was hard for me to take in,’ said Mid Georgia Ambulance director Darrell Riggins, who had been preparing for an indoor triage area. ‘I felt two bullets whiz by my head and I took cover. I wanted everything clear before my guys went in there. We all learned something. It was a good drill.’ In stage three, local firefighters rushed in to quickly put out the ‘fire’ Sgt. Newman had managed to set with a shot in the chemical lab, the last to come from the M-16. He stepped into the hall and was caught in Fallings’ and Bailey’s crossfire that had rubber bullets bouncing off the high school office windows from the opposite end of the hall. He later said three rounds hit him in less than a second. One, had it been real and he had not been wearing Kevlar, would have been fatal. ’I did see potential for friendly fire injuries,’ said evaluator Reginald Sutton, the jail commander. ’The second team in never cleared the doorways. There could have been more shooters.’ Fire chief Steve Andrews, whose team completed the drill ‘“ it took less than half an hour ‘“ agreed with that. ’We wear a lot of gear but none of it is Kevlar,’ said Andrews. ‘Overall, we communicated well with each other.’ As planned, there was only one shooter and Newman never made it to the room in which he was supposed to barricade himself. ‘That’s how we teach it in school these days. The active shooter concept is new,’ said organizer Marc Crandlemire in the postdrill evaluation, as volunteers, makeup washed off, ate Slices pizza in the new fire headquarters. ‘After the shooter was eliminated we were concerned with getting the children out of there. It certainly had its flaws but that happens. We could have been more tactically sound.’ While they had no one at the command center, Barnesville police controlled traffic as they were asked to do. It took the volunteer ‘school secretary’ a while to figure out how to work the code red lockdown system at the school ‘“ actual personnel were on vacation and did not take part in the drill ‘“ so she was spared being ‘shot’ in a variation from the drill. Some of the ‘parents’ who went to the command center and triage, then were redirected to Ingle’s, were unsure when to become ‘irate.’ One evaluator said he felt as if he were in the way ‘“ another was grazed by a paintball ‘“ and Crandlemire said there were too many people in the building, even though there were far less than there would have been if the scenario had actually happened at 1 p.m. during a regular school day. ’They did an excellent job of responding but they needed to use more cover and concealment,’ said evaluator Ed Westbrook of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. ‘It was very realistic.’

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