Smith-Cotton High School to host large-scale active shooter exercise

A member of Strategos International acts as an intruder trying to get into a classroom during an active shooter scenario in March at Smith-Cotton High School. The scenarios included air guns being shot and Strategos employees acting as intruders to help faculty and staff prepare for a potential threat. On Monday, area emergency response agencies will take part in an active shooter crisis response exercise at the school.

Seven emergency response agencies will gather at Smith-Cotton High School on Monday with the singular goal of preparing for the worst.

Sedalia area residents can expect to see several emergency vehicles and activity at the school as Pettis County responders take part in an active shooter crisis response exercise.

The exercise will simulate an active shooter situation at the high school with about 35 volunteers participating as actors and role players.

School resource officer Sgt. John Cline, of the Pettis County Sheriff’s Office, has helped lead the monthslong preparations for the exercise.

“I think anybody that keeps on top of current events sees these events happening,” he said. “They are low-probability events, but when they occur they are high-impact events. So, it’s something that we have to be prepared for.”

Sedalia School District 200 typically hosts an exercise or presentation each year for staff about the proper response to an on-campus shooter. Local law enforcement officers have also conducted field training in case of a similar emergency.

Monday’s exercise, though, will involve most emergency response agencies in the county, with the Sheriff’s Office, Sedalia Police Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Pettis County Fire Protection District, Sedalia Fire Department, Pettis County Ambulance District and Sedalia-Pettis County Emergency Management Agency.

Many of these agencies took part in a tabletop discussion in April about their policies and procedures for an active shooter emergency. They used a fictitious scenario to test how they would implement a coordinated response to the given situation.

Several of the agencies made changes to their response procedures after the discussion, but a tabletop conversation will only take responders so far, Cline said. Training on Monday will use a similar situation as the tabletop exercise, so each of the agencies will get to put their plans to the test.

“From the standpoint of working with all the department heads, it’s been overwhelmingly positive,” Cline said. “They’ve all been very supportive of this entire endeavor. They’ve all invested a lot of time and resources into this, as well.”

Sedalia School District 200 staff will also participate in the exercise, allowing them to gain practical experience with the first responders. A press release from the school district emphasized there will be no involvement from Sedalia 200 students.

“Please be aware you may hear sirens and blank rounds being fired from simulated weapons,” said Bob Satnan, district communications director, in the release. “Please do not be alarmed. This is a simulation that will allow our local law enforcement to work together to establish best practices during emergency responses in a school system.”

The exercise – and skills learned from it – won’t only apply to a shooting situation at the high school, though, Cline said. This training will prepare first responders for an active shooter at local middle and elementary schools and non-academic locations.

“(If) you look at the history of these attacks, it’s not limited to high schools,” Cline said. “A lot of the skills that we’ll be perfecting really carry over anywhere. It’s not really a facility-specific exercise so much as a test of our policies and procedures.”

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