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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

County preparing for active shooter drill

By Kyle Vuille

Ranger-Review Staff Writer

After months of planning between Dawson County Disaster and Emergency Services and Glendive Schools officials, an active shooter drill is set to take place at 10 a.m. on Saturday Oct. 14 at Dawson County High School.

The active shooter drill is a hypothetical situation where a person with a gun walks into a school and serves as a threat. The drill is an opportunity to give faculty, first responders and others the opportunity to respond to the situation.

“What we doing as whole is preparing the best for the worst,” Department of Disaster and Emergency Services Coordinator Mary Jo Gehnert said.

Members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee discussed next month’s drill at their meeting Tuesday.

The committee will hold a “sandbox” run of the drill on Oct. 4 at 2 p.m. at the fairgrounds.

LEPC Chairman Kevin Peña said Jeff Gates, a DES District Field Officer, would be available for the run through on that day.

Peña suggested that Gates felt the Oct. 4 run through would benefit all who plan to be involved in the drill and would not take away from the value of the drill itself.

“We wouldn’t be giving away any secrets as to what the whole action would be,” Peña said. 

At Tuesday’s meeting, Gehnert said she wanted to make sure everyone at the table was comfortable with the current plan before the committee set up any further details.

Mike Skillestad, a representative for Montana Department of Transportation, stated he was uncomfortable with the road closures in the drill plans.

Police Chief Brad Mitchell said he would talk to Glendive Public Work Director Jack Rice concerning the road closures and they would make a plan to make sure appropriate signs for the drill will be put in place.

On the school side of the exercise, Superintendent Stephen Schreibeis said he has about 25 people willing to participate in the drill. He said he has sent out requests for more participants, noting the number of volunteers will determine how many classrooms in the high school will be used in the drill. Schreibeis said his initial thought was to use two classrooms.

Schreibeis also vocalized the use of social media and the school’s phone directory to notify students’ parents that a drill will be taking place on Oct. 14.

Peña noted it is important to start advertising the drill and notify the public so no one gets the wrong idea and thinks the drill is a real situation.

“And right now, we’re not looking at involving students like we were,” Peña said. “If we get to the point where we’re getting really good practice at it and we want to do a full scale with students, we can do it.”

Peña then said he was actively seeing if more faculty and staff would be participating to fill the classrooms on the Saturday of the actual drill.

Peña said that Gates told him the actual drill should take at most three hours, ending at one with the debrief.

Volunteers could leave before that time, he noted.

Peña also mentioned drill coordinators are in need of volunteers willing to play the role of victims meanwhile the health department is going to handle the “phone blitz” part of the exercise.

“I need about 10 to 12 victims,” Peña said

Peña said that nailing down final numbers of volunteers would help the sandbox run go smoother and would give the committee and participating agencies a better idea of what to expect as far as how many classes will be used and other details.

For more information on volunteering for victim roles or working on victim make up, please call Gehnert at (406) 377 2566 or Peña at his office (406) 377 5772.

Reach Kyle Vuille at
news@rangerreview.com.

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