Johnston County drills for shooting at high school

dquizon@newsobserver.comApril 25, 2013 

Reports of shots fired sent dozens of emergency workers to Corinth Holders High School on Thursday afternoon, where EMS workers set up makeshift triage units in the parking lot and Johnston County Sheriff’s deputies searched the buildings for two students, reportedly armed and dangerous.

But the students were armed with Airsoft guns, and the wounds of their 11 victims were drawn on with makeup. It was all a drill – a simulated shooting and hostage situation – that county officials have planned for a year.

“This is something we hope we never have to respond to, but we have to be prepared,” said Kim Robertson, the county’s Emergency Services director.

When the scenario begins, the school is on lockdown, waiting for police and EMS. One assailant stays in one of the school’s buildings looking for open classrooms and trying to elude police.

The other assailant takes a teacher hostage and moves to a storage building across the parking lot from the building. The assailants have set up improvised explosive devices around campus.

The exercise, planned by Shelby-based Specialized Consulting Services, tests coordination among the first responders. Police must clear the way for EMS workers, who must transport victims to WakeMed and Johnston Medical Center.

“A lot of what we do depends on initial efforts by law enforcement,” said Josh Holloman, the county’s EMS division chief.

Roland Hamrick of Specialty Consulting Services said it’s also a chance for agencies to see what they’re truly capable of. Officials can look for mistakes and weak spots and try to address them with additional training, he said.

Hamrick said emergency response agencies can apply what they learn in the drill to many different scenarios.

“Even though we’re using a school shooting scenario, it helps them in all hazardous situations,” he said.

The school went into lockdown around 2 p.m. Thursday. Most students had been let out early, but a few stayed behind to act in the drill.

Police went into one of the school buildings and emerged about 15 minutes later with a “suspect.”

Adam Weaver, a teacher who played the first shooter, said police caught up to him fairly quickly.

“I was trying to lay low,” Weaver said. “I didn’t have much time to set up.”

At the other end of the campus, deputies were trying to negotiate with the second assailant outside a storage building, their conversations punctuated by the muffled pops of explosive devices. After about an hour, the suspect emerged from the building with his hands up.

The participants said they still needed to evaluate their response. They planned to have a closed meeting Thursday evening to discuss it.

Ed Croom, the county’s schools superintendent, said the recent events in Boston highlighted the importance of emergency preparation.

“It just brings back how important it is to make sure action plans aren’t just something that sits on a shelf or in a computer,” Croom said.

Quizon: 919-836-5768

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