PA, NY Police and EMS team up at EHS shooter drill
Police entered Eisenhower High School on Tuesday on two separate occasions, quickly tracked down the shooter, and ended a threat.
But that wasn’t the end of the drills.
“It’s very important for us to hold these kinds of exercises to work without EMS partners,” City of Warren Police Chief Brandon Deppen said. “In a real-life situation, we need them and they need us.”
Warren County School District has hosted law enforcement in its buildings for active shooter training a number of times. Tuesday’s drills represented the second set of full drills involving both police and EMS.
Earlier, the district practiced its unification practices — bringing students and parents back together at a location away from an incident — for the first time. That drill took place at the central office.
At Eisenhower, signs clearly indicated that a drill was in progress. Just in case, armed officers who were not part of the drills were posted outside the building.
Police went in first. EMS personnel remained at a safe location until the known threat was ended.
Then, the rest of the building had to be searched.
There could have been another shooter or some other threat.
There were volunteer wounded with injury makeup — moulage — scattered around the school.
Police escorted volunteer and professional EMS providers into the building after taking down the known shooter.
Some of the victims self-evacuated. Some were escorted out by police.
Others were unable to move.
EMS providers had clearly defined roles. Some evaluated patients’ injuries and assigned them a color depending on the severity of their wounds.
Others collected the patients in most urgent need of treatment and took them to ambulances waiting outside.
Those ambulances transported patients — bringing the drill to Warren General Hospital so it could practice its mass casualty procedures, too.
To help give the dozens of observers an idea of what it would be like if there were a serious incident at Eisenhower, the bad guy from the University of Pitt Bradford Police Department fired blanks — with full report — inside the building. Then, the law enforcement agents lined up outside the school were not sent in immediately.
Screaming and gunshots were piped to speakers outside the school. More victims.
An actor portraying a school resource officer went in first. Officers who followed later found him lying in the hall, shot in the head.
It was more than seven minutes from the first shots until the first officers were given information from the office and allowed to determine their entry point.
Office personnel in a secure location in the building kept an eye on the shooter using security cameras. They announced that the shooter was in the area of the auditorium.
The first pair of officers — one from the Lakewood-Busti (N.Y.) Police Department and one from Pennsylvania State Police, chosen because there is a good chance those departments will have personnel closer to Eisenhower than anyone else — entered via the main doors by the office.
A second group of officers — Warren County and Chautauqua County sheriff’s deputies — entered a few minutes later. Then more officers — including more from the departments already named plus City of Warren Police, Pennsylvania Game Commission, Warren County Adult Probation, and Conewango Township Police — judged to have arrived in somewhat larger groups moved into the building to help with the operation.
The first pair proceeded quickly down the east-west hall toward the auditorium and the elementary school, hearing gunshots as they went.
They engaged at the end of the hall, then chased the shooter around a corner, down stairs, and into a courtyard.
Two officers were shot, probably not fatally, before the gunman was killed.
All of the officers in the drill, and everyone else in the building, were disarmed before being allowed to be part of the drill. Pennsylvania State Police provided weapons that fired ‘simunitions’ — simulated ammunition. That non-lethal — but painful — equipment leaves a small amount of blue dye where it hits.
One trooper in the afternoon drill responded to being shot by applying a tourniquet to his arm. He was later helped out of the building by responders.
At the first drill, Russell, Lander, and Sugar Grove volunteer fire departments responded, as did EmergyCare and City of Warren Fire Department. In the evening, those same groups participated, although Sugar Grove left for a real call right at the start of the drill, and were joined by Kiantone and Busti fire departments.
Warren County Public Safety and Warren County School District personnel also played significant roles in the drills.
“I was very happy with the response,” Warren County School District Quality Assurance Coordinator Boyd Freeborough said.
During the after-action report, one trainer pointed out that there were no friendly-fire ‘blue-on-blue’ injuries. With so many officers traversing the school’s halls, that was a real possibility.
There were suggestions about how individuals could do better, praise for things done well, and hopes that relationships between agencies would be maintained. Deppen thanked that participating agencies, singling out those from New York, and offered to reciprocate in any of their future exercises.
“I want to express gratitude, thanks, and appreciation for everybody coming together for the safety of kids,” Warren County School District Superintendent Amy Stewart said.