CLINTON – The Clinton County Sheriff’s Office, along with the Clinton Police Department, hosted four days of active shooter incident management training throughout this week, at which members of every law enforcement agency, fire department, and EMS agency in the county, as well as administration from each school district, worked together to become better prepared to respond to an active shooter situation.
“This is the first time, as far as I know, in the history of anywhere in Clinton County that all have come together in the same room working on the same goal,” Clinton County Sheriff Bill Greenwalt said Tuesday during the second day of training at the Clinton County Law Center.
It was difficult to get everyone together, he said, especially since many firefighters in the county are volunteers who work other jobs during the day. Once they were able to all be brought together, however, titles, positions, and seniority were tossed aside while all simply became students of the Illinois Fire Service Institute of Champaign, Illinois.
The training consisted of two back-to-back, two-day courses in a classroom-like setting that utilized challenging tabletop exercises designed to create a pressurized situation that tests decision making.
On Tuesday, the second day of the first session, in which school administration was involved for the focus of the reunification of kids with their parents, Greenwalt and Clinton Police Chief Kevin Gyrion watched together nearby as IFSI Assistant Director JP Moore acted as dispatch to begin a simulation, speaking into a radio to put out the initial call to patrol units.
“All available units,” he said, “shots fired.”
Identified by vests they wore to group them into transport, tactical, and rescue task forces, they communicated with their own radios as they would in the event of an actual active shooter and quickly filled in around a table as if arriving to the scene. Poker chips were used on a floorplan of a make-believe school to mark the positions of each person and vehicle determined by rolls of dice, the chips flipped over to signify any casualties as they worked through the situation as quickly as possible.
Instructor Chris Stout, a police officer from Springfield, Illinois, referred to the chaos of active shooter situations as being “like herding chickens.”
“But the framework that we provide makes it easy on everybody,” he said, and even though a couple scenarios performed the day before were made to be more difficult than what they would normally present to students, “They have done very well.”
Stout said a common problem in courses taught in Illinois is the confusion of roles, especially the assumption that police officers are the ones to reunify children with their parents instead of that being done by someone from the school.
Those attending realized questions pertaining to details that otherwise wouldn’t have come to light without such specific, personalized, life-like training.
“They have opened their minds to looking at a structure that we say is ‘a’ way,” Moore said. “They’ve got to normalize it for their own response patterns, for their own resources, but no matter where I’m at… I’ve got communication challenges… I’ve got coordination issues… and we have the resource management portion. ”
Moore said a goal of the training is also to make sure they’re all being good ambassadors of taxpayers’ money.
“They’ve done a tremendous job,” he said.
Clinton School District Superintendent Gary DeLacy said the training has made him rethink some things.
The schools in the district perform “Run, Hide, Fight” drills, watch videos, and do other mental preparation, but he said they’ve never really talked about how interactions with emergency responders would go when there’s no chain of command of communication.
“It’s very helpful for me to hear from the other agencies that would be responding to this type of situation because each agency has a different lens they look through at the same situation,” Camanche School District Superintendent Tom Parker said. “We really are very impressed with the quality of training we’re receiving.”
Following a July demonstration of the training, funding for the courses was approved by the Clinton County Board of Supervisors in August, which allotted $75,000 of American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for the courses.
Gyrion said Tuesday that he’d like to have another course focused on the management of the occurrence of an active shooter at a music event on the riverfront.
The training began the day after two students died during a shooting at a school in Des Moines on Monday. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 40 mass shootings in the US so far this month. The number of children ages 11 years old or younger who have been killed due to gun violence so far this year is 21, while 102 teens ages 12 through 17 have been killed.
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