PICKENS COUNTY — An “active shooter” exercise, months in the planning, was executed last month in conjunction with multiple emergency related agencies across the county with safety for School District of Pickens County students, faculty, and staff in mind.
Liberty High School was the scene of the Nov. 24 exercise, centrally located and empty due to the holiday week for students.
The scenario was an armed intruder in the building complete with injuries and a chemical spill, law enforcement clearing the halls, hazmat team members in hazmat suits, and medical personnel dispersed throughout the campus in response.
Although the number of SDPC staff involved was limited, mostly through the planning stages and some students used as actors, the purpose and outcome of the exercise is of vital importance to SDPC administration and staff.
“We had some high school administrators inside during the exercise in order for them to understand what it is law enforcement has to do in a situation such as this one and how to cooperate with them in the heat of the moment,” said John Eby, Public Information Specialist for SDPC. “What our staff is learning is how to react in a terrible situation the best way possible because they are not trained law enforcement.”
While the prospect of an active shooter entering one of Pickens County’s schools is a terrifying thought for any parent or family member, SDPC officials know their staff must be prepared in the event it does happen.
“We certainly hope we never experience anything like this in our life, but if it does happen, we all have to face each other and ask how did we prepare and were we prepared,” Eby said. “Well, this is how you prepare, by putting our staff alongside law enforcement and the emergency management folks and let them learn.”
Manuals and procedures are always at the ready for SDPC staff but putting them into practice is important.
“We needed to practice along with everyone else what happens if an incident occurs. Emergency management is in the driver’s seat and our people have to take their lead from them and coordinate with them and that’s one thing we wanted to accomplish,” Eby said.
“Since the Newtown shooting we have been on continuous modified lockdown, all classrooms and exterior doors locked at all times and this training is part of being prepared,” he added. “Our receptionists are trained to recognize possible situations and how to respond and our School Resource Officers are a part of the prevention. But we also have to consider what happens if the SRO goes down as well.”
One thing SDPC wished to stress was this exercise has been in the works for months and was not a reaction to any recent events.
“We have been involved in preparing for this exercise since last spring and this week was the sensible one because the students are out leaving the building empty,” Eby said. “This is not reactionary in any way to anything other than every few weeks there is a school shooting and if it does happen here, and we hope and pray it never does, but if it does we want to be prepared.”
Reach D. C. Moody or Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.