Expect the unexpected

WCSD, law-enforcement and emergency responders train in active shooter simulations at Beaty-Warren

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry During an active shooter drill Tuesday at Beaty-Warren Middle School, City of Warren Police officers run past victims as they hunt for the shooter.

An active shooter situation is not unthinkable.

In fact, officials in Warren County are thinking about it and are unwilling to be caught unprepared.

While they hope for the best, if there should ever be an active shooter incident in the county, those who respond to it will have gone through training and practice.

On Tuesday, Warren County School District, law enforcement officers from numerous agencies, the City of Warren Fire Department, and EmergyCare participated in an active shooter drill at Beaty-Warren Middle School.

City of Warren Police Officer A.J. Foriska filled in the assembled officers prior to each of two drills.

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry During an active shooter drill Tuesday at Beaty-Warren Middle School, officers from Conewango Township and City of Warren police move past numerous victims as they make sure there are no secondary threats in the building.

“The school district called and they have an active shooter situation,” he said. “Shots are being fired.”

In order to simulate the timing of a real response, officers were paired up and released into the building at intervals.

They were given an initial report from the office about where the shooter might be.

From there, it was up to the officers to handle the situation.

Foriska gave them some key steps:

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry During an active shooter drill Tuesday at Beaty-Warren Middle School, emergency personnel treat a seriously injured victim.

¯ Enter the building;

¯ locate the threat; and

¯ contain or neutralize the threat.

At Beaty, it was assumed that the first officers to arrive would be from the City of Warren Police. A pair of city officers went in first for each drill. With proctors in vests yelling instructions — or just yelling — at them to raise the stress levels, those pairs made their way upstairs, asked victims where the shooter was, returned (simulated) fire when the shooter was seen down a hallway, and, shortly after that, cornered and shot the shooter.

In addition to city police, officers from Warren County Sheriff’s Office, Conewango Township Police, Youngsville Borough Police, Pennsylvania State Police, Warren County Probation, and the United States Forest Service participated in the drill. An officer from the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford Campus Police was the bad guy in the drill.

All weapons were checked and marked before the drill. The only weapons that were loaded and capable of firing were loaded with Simunition — simulated, non-lethal ammunition.

In both drills, the shooter was killed or fatally wounded.

Law enforcement got together for an after-action debriefing.

“Overall, it was really quick,” Foriska said. “You guys did really well.”

One problem with the first scenarios was in communications. One of the two officers who took the suspect into custody made a radio call indicating that and letting other officers know the location. That call was covered up by other radio traffic and other officers did not hear it.

“There’s going to be breakdown in all of these situations,” Foriska said.

The responders will continue to have opportunities to work on any weaknesses they identify.

“Our goal is to do one a year, and move it around to each attendance area,” Superintendent Amy Stewart said.

“We will continue,” Stewart said. “This is an event that we will learn from and move forward.”

She thanked the many individuals and entities “that put a lot of their time and effort” into the event.