While it’s already been a concern for more than a decade, the shooting has brought the importance of training for active shooter situations into even sharper focus for police officers and school officials.
Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza opened fire inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Friday, killing 26 people, including 20 children, at the school. The killer, armed with two handguns, committed suicide at the scene.
Chief Deputy Brad Robinson said officers in both the Carroll County Sheriff’s Office and Carrollton Police Department have been “aggressively training” for years, and that the training has not been made more active just because of last Friday’s events.
“These tragic events make us realize how true it is that this type of training is necessary,” Robinson said. “There are so many places where this can happen in a split second. We hope not, but we train for it anyway. It’s a situation that’s happened too many times across the nation.”
Maj. Craig Dodson, who coordinates the training for CCSO, said the two law enforcement agencies usually train in tandem for these types of events — usually in a remote location, with officers “acting” like shooting suspects. Training for active shooter situations has been going on for more than a decade in Carroll County, he said.
“Rapid response is key,” Dodson said. “We don’t want to have to wait for other responders or backup. We try to equip officers with equipment and training that makes it as safe and quick as possible.”
By February, Dodson hopes to have more equipment for all officers that could be helpful in a tragic situation similar to Friday’s shooting: an active shooter “go-bag,” as he called it.
The pack would include extra ammunition and medical supplies for the officers to use on themselves, the major said.
“The medical supplies — things like a product called Quick-Clot to stop the bleeding — are there because other officers can’t stop to help injured officers or even victims,” Dodson said. “We have to continuously pursue the suspect.”
Every certified officer will have the active shooter go-bag in his or her patrol car in the next couple of months.
Dodson said it is immensely beneficial to make contact with the shooter as quickly as possible — in fact, it can save lives, he said.
“The quicker contact can be made, the quicker the killing stops,” he said. “Statistics show that almost 100 percent of the time, after police make contact with a shooter, no one else is killed.”
As for how parents would be contacted if an emergency situation ever occurred in either the city or county school system, the systems say they have it covered.
The county system, Superintendent Scott Cowart said, has a parent messenger system in place that can be used for both information sharing and emergency situations.The messages can get to parents both through email and over the phone.
Carrollton City Schools uses a system called SchoolCast, director of public relations Julianne Foster said.
“It is integrated with our student information system ... and is updated daily to ensure our contact information is accurate,” she said. “In emergency situations, we send voice messages, text messages and e-mail via SchoolCast.”
Both systems, when appropriate, will also post on their Facebook pages or contact media outlets to disseminate via their available methods (radio, websites, social media).
Both systems also have a comprehensive safety plan with defined protocols in place.
“Each staff member is familiar with these procedures and practice them throughout the school year,” Foster said. “Our school system is so aware of the importance of this issue that all principals and district level administrators have been certified through FEMA for multi-hazard emergency planning for schools.”