St. C. active shooter training scenario includes faux bomb

T-L Photos/DYLAN McKENZIE Members of the Belmont County Sheriff’s Office Special Operations branch guard an “injured” student during Thursday’s active shooter training drill. Officers secured the building so that EMS personnel could move in and treat the simulated injuries of students.

ST. CLAIRSVILLE — The street in front of St. Clairsville High School was filled with emergency vehicles on Thursday morning, as students, staff, and first responders trained for a worst-case scenario.

The school held an active shooter drill on Thursday, exercises that have become increasingly common across the country to help train and prepare for the possibility of a dangerous situation in a school building.

Numerous emergency personnel participated in the training, including St. Clairsville Police Department, Belmont County Sheriff’s Department and its Special Operations branch, Ohio State Highway Patrol, Cumberland Trail Fire District, and more.

St. Clairsville-Richland City Schools Superintendent Walt Skaggs said the school tries to hold training sessions regularly to keep prepared for a variety of situations. The school district participates in ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) scenarios conducted through the St. Clairsville Police Department.

The drill began with a simulated explosion in the middle school cafeteria, with an active shooter then moving towards the high school area “shooting” students and staff as he went. Within minutes, law enforcement officers were on the scene, moving into the building to secure the location, as well as blocking off the street from all but emergency vehicles.

Officers moved into the building, quickly locating and neutralizing the shooter, before securing the building to protect “injured” students. Emergency crews from Cumberland Trail and other fire departments then moved into the building to contain the damage from the explosion, as well as evacuating “injured” students from the building.

“I think they did a tremendous job,” Skaggs said after the conclusion of the drill. “We’ve come a long way over the years.”

Skaggs said the school tries to conduct monthly exercises to prepare for a variety of scenarios, including shooter drills.

“Unfortunately this kind of thing can happen anywhere,” he said. “We just don’t want to be caught unprepared.”

St. Clairsville police Chief Jeff Henry said emergency personnel also ran another active shooter drill at the same time at St. Clairsville Elementary School, with an active shooter outside of the building. Henry said to prevent from frightening the younger students, they engaged the shooter outside the school, and officers did not enter the building with guns drawn. Henry said he was happy the departments were able to hold a training at the elementary school as well, as its something the department hasn’t done before.

“I think it was a very good experience for the elementary school,” Henry said. “They’ve never had something like that before.”

Henry said despite the number of departments and personnel that participated in the exercise, it went very smoothly.

“I think it went very well,” he said. “They (the school) had a bunch of new scenarios dropped on them, and responded well. We have some things to work on, but otherwise it went very well.”

Henry said his department has two ALICE officers trained, and is happy to provide training exercises to any institution that might want to help make itself safer. He said any church, business or other organization can get in touch with his department.