‘Active shooter training’ helps Grand County officials improve emergency response protocols

An emergency preparedness drill conducted at Grand County High School last Saturday, Oct. 15, was a resounding success, and gave local law enforcement agencies and school officials useful information to help them improve their emergency Resoinse plans, according to participating agency officials.

During the drill, law enforcement, school district staff, and approximately 20 students acted out scenarios involving a shooter at the school. The drill was used as a form of training to test emergency protocols, said Grand County Sheriff Steve White.

“The purpose of an event like this is to identify any shortcomings in the law enforcement response plan, as well as in the school’s emergency response plan,” said Jimmy Chapman, loss control manager for the Utah School Boards Association who also is one of the developers of the drill. “We want to give ‘attaboys’ for the many aspects that work but also identify and correct the pieces that need some attention.” White said he was impressed with how all of the parties handled the drill. He also gave kudos to members of the Utah County SWAT team, who led the training and played the role of the shooters during the drill.

“The safety was above the board. They [SWAT] run a tight ship, and their dedication to the kids and the safety of the schools should not go unnoticed,” White said. “The drill really opened up a lot of dialogue between the agencies, and we found some discussion points to look at, but overall, the protocol worked.”

Grand County School District Superintendent Margaret Hopkin echoed White’s praise for the training and the team members. Hopkin said that the drill was informative on many levels, and she was pleased that the interagency aspect worked so well.

“I expected a much more intense drill,” Hopkin said. “It was intense, but there were a lot of safety measures in place, and I felt safe and the staff and students felt safe during the drill.”

A clinical psychologist was on the scene to work with the students throughout the day and reported that they all handled the situation well, according to Chapman. White said that in his conversations with the students, they felt the drill opened their eyes to the possibility of this type of emergency. He said they expressed a feeling a safety when the officers were in the building.

“Moab should feel very fortunate that their law enforcement agencies mesh so well together,” said White. “Each scenario had three to four agencies acting out their roles, and they all meshed and performed well.”

Now that the drill is complete, participating members and law officials will have time to work through their separate training issues and then meet together in early November for a full debriefing, at which point the Utah School Board Association will draft a formal report of the day’s events, Chapman said.

“Right now, staff and students will be submitting written comments, and then we will move to face-to-face debriefing,” Hopkin said. “Now we will be planning on where to go from here. I’m proud of the students and staff, and I’d like to turn the tables and look at strengthening our internal responses.”

ByBy Charli Engelhorn

staff writer