Intense school shooting simulation tests nerves, emergency response
Students slumped down on the floor, covered in fake blood. SWAT team members and deputies scoured the school, tracking down the shooters to stop the bloodshed.This was the scene of the active shooter drill at R.K. Smith Middle School in Luling.
Active shooter mimics an assault on a school and serves as a training exercise for school staff, law enforcement, fire departments, hospital workers and other assisting agencies. St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne said the agencies involved in the drill already have procedures in place should a school shooting or other emergency event occur, but going through a realistic drill is the best way to train for such a tragic scenario.
“This is just a chance to put it together into a scenario that is realistic with smoke and sirens, a fire alarm – it is chaos and a chance to get them trained to think and act on procedures in the confusion,” he said. “That is what training is all about, to be in a real-life situation and be able, without thinking about it, to act.”
Altogether more than 700 people participated in the drill, including 300 school staff members.
The drill started off with a simple fight between two students in the school cafeteria. As the school resource officer arrived to break up the fight, a burst of gunfire rang out as four shooters entered the building. Students and teachers scattered, climbing over one another.
Then, a flash grenade exploded.
In the wake of the grenade, which simulated a bomb, students lined the floor with fake injuries. A school alert came on, with flashing lights and an emergency message over the intercom.
As the shooters made their way down the hallways, the first wave of local law enforcement arrived. Other area SWAT teams were being mobilized.
SWAT team members from the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office and the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office arrived in a tank-like vehicle and one of the shooters was taken down.But smoke began pouring through the school, decreasing visibility.
FBI SWAT joined in and local volunteer firefighters started stabilizing victims. Helicopters from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and MYU Helicopters of Luling came in to assist in the operation and search for any shooters that had escaped.
One group of law enforcement officers followed a scent trail with a dog down a ditch lining I-310, which would ultimately lead them to one of the shooters who had fled to the animal shelter.
Meanwhile, a hostage situation was unfolding at the nearby Satellite Center and students were beginning to evacuate.
Capt. Pat Yoes, St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said it is important to get all entities who would be involved in such a situation included in the action. That means “injured” students were taken to St. Charles Parish Hospital.
“Students who would normally be taken by ambulance are going to be put on a bus because we don’t want to tie up the ambulances. They are going to the hospital and testing their system,” Yoes said. “The students have cards written on them that tell them what the injuries are so the doctors and everybody knows how to treat them.”
Champagne, whose office set up the drill, said the activity is important to help everyone involved prepare for a potential incident.
“Probably half of the teachers and administrators inside have never participated in this, so the school system brings in teachers, administrators and security people from all of the different schools,” he said.
Bringing school personnel up to date on training for such a situation is the best line of defense schools have against acts of violence, Champagne said.
“The important thing we tell them is that the police are not going to be on scene when something starts. Really the crucial factor, which I told them at the briefing, is using the teachers on the ground implementing your safety procedures when something happens. That is going to save lives,” he said. “We are going to get there at the end, hopefully when things are locked down, and put an end to it, but it is the actions that the school teachers take on scene that are going to save most kids.”
Agencies involved in the training exercise included the St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, Luling Volunteer Fire Department, Hahnville Volunteer Fire Department, Paradis Volunteer Fire Department, St. Charles Parish Hospital Emergency Medical Service, St. Charles Parish Emergency Operations Center, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Air Support Unit, State Police, Jefferson Parish SWAT, Kenner SWAT, St. John Parish SWAT, FBI SWAT, Dow, Monsanto and Shell/Motiva.
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