Drill to simulate school shooting

October 11, 2018

HUNTINGTON — More than a dozen local agencies and organizations will practice their crisis response protocol Saturday morning in a scheduled mass-casualty exercise, simulating an active shooter and bomb situation at Huntington High School.

The drill will be led by the Cabell-Wayne Local Emergency Planning Committee as an active rehearsal to catastrophic events. The committee organizes different disaster exercises annually, such as a simulated train derailment and a chemical spill in recent years.

The exercise will test every facet of responding to an active shooter situation for the agencies involved — each with their own role to play. Ambulances will test their response times to local emergency rooms, police will practice securing the scene and the school district will organize its evacuation and communication measures.

“These things do happen around the world, and we want to be able to test our systems here and be able to make improvements in an awful situation as best we can make them,” said Elizabeth Adkins, public information officer and director of wellness for the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.

Aside from meeting their own specialized responsibilities, the exercise gives agencies a chance to practice communicating among each other quickly in the heat of a disaster.

“Each agency brings something different to the table, and we need to make sure they exercise any objectives they

have on the table,” Adkins said. “At the end of the day, everybody’s a resource.”

Participants include Cabell County Sheriff’s Office, Cabell County Board of Education, Huntington Fire Department, Wayne County Office of Emergency Services, Cabell County EMS, Cabell County 911, city of Huntington, Tri-State Transit Authority, West Virginia State Police, Cabell-Huntington Health Department, Milton Police Department, Huntington Police Department, St. Mary’s Medical Center, Cabell Huntington Hospital, Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center and River Park Hospital.

The exercise is set to begin at 8 a.m. and last until about 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13. The access road to Huntington High will be closed, but no major traffic disruptions are expected, Adkins said.

This is the first mass-casualty exercise to simulate a school shooting since 2012, and with more than 250 volunteers acting as students and victims, it’s expected to be the largest drill yet in terms of participants.

“Having that type of volume is great for us to test all of our capabilities for transportation and record-keeping,” Adkins said.

While preparing for an active shooter situation is particularly pertinent in today’s world, the lessons learned Saturday could be applied easily to other disasters a school may have to respond to, said Tim Hardesty, Cabell County Schools’ assistant superintendent for district support and employee relations.

“We want to make sure that as a response team, that we know what to do if something happens,” Hardesty said. “While we’re testing all of our systems, other agencies will be testing their systems, too.”

Cabell County Schools will issue a reminder to families regarding the exercise prior to Saturday.

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