Real-Life Situation Presented At School With Gunfire
Darren Doyle, story and photos:
Edmonson County law enforcement officials, emergency responders, and Edmonson County schools coordinated a multi-agency active shooter scenario today at ECHS.
The Sheriff's Office, Brownsville Police, KSP, the U.S. National Park Service, and Homeland Security participated in the event along with Edmonson EMS and local first responder personnel. Several Edmonson County students also took part along with school employees.
John Chidester, pastor of Brownsville Missionary Baptist Church, who is also a member of the Brownsville Fire Department, volunteered to be an "active shooter," along with Deputy Jailer Devin Lindsey and Wingfield Fire Department member Brandon Graham.
The men were outfitted with protective armor as they went through several shootouts with various officers using special AR-15 rifles and semi-automatic handguns that shot small paint-marking rounds called "simunition."
The training created a real-life shooter situation with student and teacher casualties and injuries. Several high school students pretended to be wounded while taking part of the scenarios with gunfire.
"I didn't know how realistic this would actually be," said junior Hunter Ashley. "But it was really loud, and it seemed so real."
Junior Jarrod Sanders said much of the same. "Something like this would be really bad but I feel like it's preparing us for the real thing if it ever happened."
ECMS Counselor Kelly Rich discussed the importance of the students choosing to participate in the training.
"I'm so proud of our student volunteers," she said. "These boys have done so well today. It was a great learning experience for us all."
Superintendent Patrick Waddell said that while the talk of school safety has never been higher, today wasn't the first time that this type of training has been utilized.
"Sheriff Doyle has helped coordinate these before. I believe this is the third or fourth training session here at our schools. I'm glad that today our local ambulance service and first responders took part. To my knowledge, this is the first time that they've been part of this. Obviously, we hope that something like this never happens here, but if so, it will take all our agencies working together and we saw an excellent example of that today."
Keith Sanders, Director of Edmonson EMS, addressed the group of emergency workers and law enforcement.
"Overall, this has been a smooth process," he said. "We have things to work on and we're going to work with law enforcement and the schools to see that we're all on the same page, but I think this went well today."
Sanders said that he reached out to other ambulance services and documented their response time in case multiple medical agencies were needed. He gave examples of how several ambulances and helicopters would be available in minutes.
Sheriff Shane Doyle said that today's training was the best in which he's ever participated, thanks to the multi-agency effort.
"I've said for years that our officers, our EMS workers, firefighters, and first responders are some of the best, period, and I'm glad to be able to work with them. If we don't work together, we simply can't be effective, so that's why so many are here today."
Seniors Logan Lindsey, Tucker Cole, Ryan Lindsey, Logan Minton, and J.T. Vincent also volunteered along with Braxtin Lindsey, a 5th grader. The students said if they had to rate the school and emergency responders from 1-10 on what they saw today, they would give it an eight or nine.
"I would think that's a fair assessment," said Supt. Waddell. "Our concern now is working on a plan that would better coordinate traffic control in and out of the school and our area in a real-life situation. We're working on a plan that would keep the right folks in and out of here, because you'd obviously have parents needing to get to their children. In my opinion, that would be the only reason I wouldn't give us a '10,' because of the unknowns our traffic situation could bring."
U.S. Park Ranger Josh Clemons, who helped coordinate the event, also credited multiple agencies for the success of the training. Edmonson County Sheriff's Detective Wally Ritter agreed while also thanking the volunteers who helped by portraying active shooters.
Waddell said what makes the training effective is the reality it brings when there is real gunfire and students are lying in the hallways.
"Yes, you know it's simulated. You know it's training, but when you hear the gunshots, when you see the looks on the faces of these officers and workers, it's all business. When you see our students down or being brought out, when you see officers going in, it's the real deal."
In addition to the active shooter situation, there were also presentations of tactical field care/combat casualty training, and "officer down" scenarios. The training lasted all day today.
Sheriff Doyle said that training for these scenarios is an ongoing process.
"Unfortunately, it's the world today. We sometimes think that it could never happen here, but they probably thought that at Parkland, at Marshall, at Sandy Hook, and the list goes on. We're doing everything we can to see that if Edmonson County ever makes national news, it's because of something great, not a tragedy. We continue to pray that nothing like this will ever happen here, but if it does, we want to be as prepared as we possibly can."