Should there ever be an active shooter or other emergency event at a local school or other populated place, there’d likely be chaos. In this type of event, Lincoln County first responders must be trained and ready to handle it. A county-wide active shooter training event was held at Union Elementary School on Tuesday and Wednesday.
An active shooter plan has been continually worked on for the past five years. Two years ago, an active shooter drill took place at Lincolnton Middle School. This past spring, a reunification drill held at West Lincoln Middle School. Other, smaller scale trainings have been going on within individual agencies and planning and preparing for such event is constantly being conducted.
The active shooter drill held two years ago was reviewed by Specialized Consulting Services out of Shelby to determine what, if any, holes were in the county-wide response.
“We knew we were going to have some hiccups,” Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Trent Carpenter said. “That’s what we wanted. If you do everything and it’s perfect, then you haven’t done a good service to the community. Those hiccups are what we’re working on now.”
This is the first time that all Lincoln County and City of Lincolnton agencies have come together for a training event since the drill two years ago.
“The biggest thing that we’re working on today is to get all of the agencies working together,” Carpenter said. “We use a unified command in this situation which means you have multiple representatives from law enforcement, EMS and fire. We’re all together making decisions. One person can’t handle this large scale of an incident. Managing the situation is the biggest hurdle.”
Stopping the threat is important in an active shooter situation, but it’s only a small portion of the emergency.
“We’re looking at the whole picture,” Carpenter said. “You’ve got patient care to worry about and patient transport. You’ve got to worry about relocating the kids and then reuniting them with their parents. What resources at the hospital do I need to deal with these patients? The list keeps growing.”
One problem that may not be on the forefront of the minds of most is what to do with the school after such an event. Where will the children be relocated to go to school? It might be weeks, months or even years before they can get back into the existing school. For example, it took nearly four years for Sandy Hook Elementary to reopen after the tragedy there.
Much of the training and planning that’s being done has been under wraps, especially on the law enforcement side. This is for the safety of everyone involved to prevent a potential shooter from knowing the plan and working around it.
Darren Ledford, with the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office and Chad Parlier, Lincoln County Emergency Services training coordinator, conducted the training session with emergency medical services personnel and fire department staff. In this training, they discussed what needs to happen on their end in an active shooter situation.
Unlike many other emergency situations that these individuals would face in their day to day job, in an active shooter situation, they’ll likely be prevented from getting to their patients by the shooter. They have to wait for law enforcement to stop the threat. Then, once they can get in to the building, it’s still potentially a hostile environment. They need to quickly “plug holes, stop the bleeding and then get the victim out of the building before they can administer additional care like administering intravenous therapy.”
“The other thing that you’ve got to look at is controlling the chaos,” Ledford said to the group of emergency medical service personnel in the class Wednesday night. “This is going to be a chaotic event. Even in the drill it got stressful because this is not something we do every day. You’ve got to think about it guys, we’re not Charlotte. We’re not the big city. We don’t have 20,000 police officers running to the scene, we don’t have a bunch of fire and EMS trucks. It’s just us and we’re in a rural area and it takes us a while to get to places so we have to do things a little differently.”
The plan in place including interactive maps, staging areas, command post, response plan and job tasks have been made available, in confidence, to all emergency medical service and law enforcement personnel for them to study and keep on hand in case of an emergency situation.
In addition to what’s being done by law enforcement and first responders, school-wide safety measures have been continually worked through and put in place at Lincoln County schools, especially in the past two years. Student resource officers were added to both Lincoln County Schools middle schools and to both campuses at Lincoln Charter School for the 2018-2019 school year. To date, no SROs are at Lincoln County Schools elementary schools. Instead, according to Lincoln County Schools superintend Dr. Lorry Morrow, sheriff's deputies from the road patrol visit elementary schools on a regular basis.
“We’re being proactive based on what we’re seeing in society,” Parlier said. “There’s some places that don’t have this type of training in place.”