The City of Covington Police Department (CPD) recently teamed with 10 other agencies to conduct a large-scale active shooter drill. Held last Friday at Peachtree Academy in Covington, the drill was the most realistic active shooter drill the CPD has ever conducted.
“We have certainly trained for an active shooter scenario in the past, but this was the first time we were able to coordinate with such a large number of other agencies and hold the training at a school that is still functioning,” said CPD Lieutenant Chuck Groover.
The drill took more than three months to plan and consisted of 60 first responders, 30 volunteers who acted as victims and shooters and 10 observers. The goal of the drill was to give responding officers as little information as possible, to resemble a real-world scenario.
At 9 a.m., a phone call was made to 911 from Peachtree Academy alerting the dispatcher to trouble at the school. The first officers were dispatched immediately and more officers were dispatched as subsequent calls were received. The first officers through the front doors of the school were faced with three deceased victims, complete with professionally applied moulage, or mock injuries, in the lobby, hundreds of shell casings and synthetic blood throughout the hallways.
“To increase the attention level of those involved, we wanted to make this as realistic as possible, right down to the victims,” Groover said. “Some were crying, some were screaming hysterically for help and others were deceased.”
The responding officers did not know the location or the number of shooters in the building. As portions of the school were cleared, fire fighters and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel triaged victims and evacuated them. Live gun fire in the form of blank cartridges were being shot from different parts of the school, forcing officers to rely on their training and instincts to respond appropriately.
It took responders approximately 35 minutes to clear a pair of two-story buildings, neutralize or apprehend the five shooters and triage all victims. Following the exercise, participating agencies conducted a two hour debriefing where actions were discussed.
“There are things we did very well and things we can improve on,” Groover said. “Having almost all of our local agencies involved was crucial and will pay dividends, God forbid, this ever occurs in a real world situation.”
Along with the Covington Police Department, the Oxford and Porterdale police departments and Georgia State Patrol represented the law enforcement agencies while the Covington, Newton County and Walton County Fire Departments worked with Piedmont Newton EMS to triage and treat victims. Covington Newton 911, the Covington Newton Emergency Management Agency and the Salvation Army also played crucial roles in the exercise.
Groover was quick to point out that an active shooter situation can happen anywhere.
“People associate active shooters with schools, but we know from past experiences active shooter scenarios can happen in businesses, parks, neighborhoods and outdoor suburban areas too,” Groover said. “At the end of the day, our goal is to save lives. To do that we have to be prepared and that is what this drill was all about.”