Barry County Sheriff’s Dept. hosts Shell Knob active shooter training
August 26, 2015
As part of annual training efforts, the Barry County Sheriff’s Department hosted an active shooter training at the Shell Knob Elementary School on Tuesday, August 18. The exercise is part of a series of active shooter events that the deputies participate in at various area schools to practice in the event that a shooter enters the schools.
This year at Shell Knob, the training involved the Sheriff’s Department partnering with Cox Health EMS, Cox Health Trauma Services, Central Crossing Fire Department and the City of Wheaton Police Department. Overall, Sheriff Mick Epperly felt that the day was successful.
He said, “It went pretty well. I was in incident command, and we still had a few problems with navigating the building, but this is what these exercises are for, to get officers familiar with the layout of the schools and communicating to see where issues are.”
The event featured three shooters and a variety of victims who displayed realistic wounds, courtesy of Cox Health Trauma Services, to give both law enforcement and emergency medical personnel both shooter and victim scenarios to deal with at the scene.
Epperly said that the active shooter training does not necessarily follow any particular program or protocol, but rather it builds upon itself as the officers gain more experience and practice in case of a real-life event. Teachers and administrators gain insight into what an active shooter situation would be like in their school, as well.
Sheriff Epperly commented, “We had questions coming from the teachers after at Shell Knob. I think its getting people more involved with what to expect out of us in the event that it actually happened.”
Around 15 officers were involved in the Shell Knob training, but Epperly said that he, Major Leonard Collins and Wheaton Police Chief Clint Clark at the incident command location all had live ammunition in case there was an event while officers were in training. He said, “We want to make sure safety is our first concern.”
Different fire departments and local police forces are involved depending on the school district officers are in. So far this year, Shell Knob, Wheaton and Exeter have all had active shooter training. Epperly said that he expects Southwest to be next. The Barry County Sheriff’s Department also participates when the Cassville Police Department has events at their schools.
Epperly said, “We’re learning a lot through going through the actual motions on how we would respond.”
He added, “This time, we tried five minute intervals for responding officers to go in. The real life event wouldn’t have staging like that. Whatever officer is close is going to have to go in and do their best given what they have.”
At the Shell Knob training, officers managed to find all three shooters and all of the victims. Events like this help familiarize officers of the lay out of the schools on a regular basis to make communication easier. Epperly said, “Working with the staff is always helpful, too, because they have intercoms into all of the classrooms and we can get information back to us about what’s going on inside.”
He continued, “The first 10 to 15 minutes is always chaotic, so having the experience in the building itself is helpful.”
Jason Nape, paramedic field supervisor for Cox Health EMS, said that Cox tries to be involved in three or four exercises each year. He said, “For us to be able to participate, it creates a good interaction with the Sheriff’s Department. Communication is usually the hardest aspect of situations like this in real life, and this gives us the ability to practice how we would go about any of those issues.”
Sheriff Epperly said, “Hopefully we never have one of these, but my officers are getting a better familiarity with the schools in the event that it does. We want to be prepared.”