Officers take part in active shooter drills
VALLEY BEND — It’s something no one likes to think about, but if an active shooter situation ever happens in a Randolph County school, local law enforcement officers want to be prepared.
That’s why the Elkins Police Department has been hosting a series of Solo Officer Emergency Response training sessions for EPD officers, West Virginia state troopers, and the sheriff’s departments from Randolph and Pocahontas counties.
On Wednesday another leg of the training, which is being conducted by the Omega Tactical Concepts firm, took place at the Homestead Community Center in Valley Bend. The old school building provides a perfect layout for the two-day training session, officials said.
“This is just the starting point of what we are trying to accomplish,” said Elkins Police Chief Travis Bennett. “This class today covered the basic actions of inside the building and what to do in case of an active shooter. It’s the basic foundation before we can add on to it. If you go too far and push too hard, you’re trying to do trigonometry before you learn addition and subtraction.”
Bennett said rural communities such as those in Randolph County aren’t exempt from the possibility of something terrible happening in a school.
“Active shooter events happen anywhere, it’s not a big town thing,” he said. “If you look at some of the events that have happened in the past, that’s the first time you’ve ever heard of that town. I want the country and the world to learn of Elkins and Randolph County by something positive, not by some type of negative event that has happened.”
Bennett said the training for circumstances like this will continue in the upcoming months, and that the EPD has other plans coming to help protect our public places.
“This is just one part of the chain,” he said. “What we are doing here has been groundbreaking. We are training every single law enforcement officer in the county to operate on the same sheet of music and to use the same protocols if we were to have one of these events. It puts us ahead of where most places are.”
Joining the local law enforcement agencies for the training Wednesday were members of area emergency squads, as well as teachers from within the Randolph County school system.
“When we integrate EMS in it to see how they are going to operate with us, and then we start implementing the school personnel in it as well, it puts us well ahead of where we were just a year ago,” Bennett said. “This puts everyone in a position that if something does happen, it’s not the first time we’ve seen it. That helps everyone be better prepared to respond if something does go wrong.”
Emergency workers and teachers on hand not only received crucial training that will help them in case of an unfortunate event, but also acted out some of the roles of victims during the session.
“Initially they offered it to us so we could learn how to adjust our safety plans and know what to expect if something happened in our building,” said Tygarts Valley Middle School teacher Stephanie Riddle, who took part in Wednesday’s training. “It’s been very enlightening to see how the different agencies work together and how they adjust to a situation.
“For us as far as role players, it’s been a very unique experience to see everyone work through a scenario. They have given us a lot of things to take back to our schools so that we can adjust our safety plans. It’s been very educational for us as far as teachers being here.”
Newly elected Randolph County Sheriff Rob Elbon took part in Wednesday’s event and feels the training sessions are crucial to everyone involved.
“This training really helps everyone be prepared if something would go wrong,” Elbon said. “It’s something you can’t be prepared enough for. To be able to pull all of the agencies together is priceless.”
Paul Koerner and Bob Mefford conducted the training for Omega Tactical Concepts, which is firm based in St. Albans which specializes in scenario-based training for individuals, private companies and law enforcement. The two have a combined total of 48 years experience in law enforcement.