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Cops, First Responders Gather to Consider Worst Case Scenario

Police, sheriffs, all the way up to the FBI gathered to hash out the challenges of a hypothetical worst-case scenario.

(TNS) - An alarming number of law enforcement officers descended on the Brunswick High campus Wednesday morning, responding to Glynn County, Ga., Schools Police Chief Rod Ellis’ call for help with an unfolding situation.

Fortunately, this situation was confined to a single room, where officers from the Brunswick Police Department all the way up to the FBI gathered to hash out the challenges of a hypothetical worst-case scenario that has become all too familiar on school campuses nationwide.

In fact, it happened Tuesday in western Kentucky, where a teenager opened fire on classmates at Marshall County High School, killing two and wounding 16.

The people who get paid to worry about these things locally know it could happen right here in the Golden Isles.

“Can it happen?” Ellis asked the room of more than 40 people. “Does it happen? Yes, it does. A school’s safety in a situation like this it not just the responsibility of the cops of campus. It’s everybody’s responsibility.”

Everybody, in this case, included representatives from the city and county police departments, the county sheriff’s office, the Georgia State Patrol, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the FBI, among others. Joining them were folks from the Brunswick-Glynn 911 Center, the county Emergency Management Agency, the county and city fire departments and school officials from the superintendent to the custodial manager at Brunswick High School.

The session began with a training video depicting a shooting incident at fictional Appomattox University, where a college dropout terrorized the campus with multiple weapons, killing 10 and wounding 25. The dramatization showed a similarly wide-ranging scope of law enforcement officers and public safety workers converging on the scene. The slaughter unfolds in just minutes, ending when a campus officer guns down the assailant.

Engaging the gunman, treating the wounded, safeguarding innocents on campus and restoring order are not matters that simply take care of themselves, the video underscored.

Following the video, Ellis presented the room with a mock scenario closer to home. An armed and irate man invades Brunswick High where his estranged wife works and his daughter is enrolled, Ellis explained in the hypothetical encounter. A co-conspirator joins him, and the two wreak havoc with pistols, rifles and maybe even an explosive device in a backpack.

School police assigned to the campus engage the gunman, leading to a standoff. Brunswick and county police respond immediately. As the crisis unfolds, all of those on hand assume their roles. The group debated and sought answers to everything from treating and transporting mass casualties to pursuing a gunman through a campus that is on emergency lockdown and filled with terrified students.

Solutions were proposed for each challenge. Many of those solutions raised still more challenges. Those challenges were then addressed. FBI special agent Jeff Roberts summed up one issue on which all were in total agreement.

“You want to eliminate that threat as soon as you can,” he said, summing up examples of how quickly a well-armed gunman can spread carnage.

To that end, schools police officer Jody Vicent urged officers from all area law enforcement agencies to familiarize themselves with area campuses.

“Give us call,” said Vicent, one of two officers assigned to patrol Brunswick High. “Especially if you are toting a gun, you need to come to Brunswick High and take a walk around, get to know the campus.”

Leaders of Wednesday’s “table top exercise” agreed that it would be beneficial to schedule a mock drill in the future to better prepare for this worst-case scenario.

“I think what we learned here today is that we need to come back and do an actual exercise,” said Jay Wiggins, the county’s EMA Director. “We need to do this with boots on the ground.”

Brunswick Police Chief Kevin Jones said the exercise helped bring clarity to the chaos that all first responders would inevitably face in such a catastrophic event.

“Here in this room are the people who will show up if this goes down,” Jones said. “If we problem-solve beforehand, we will cut down on some of the chaos. And you can underline ‘some.’”


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