McMinn Co. schools, deputies practice attack response - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

McMinn Co. schools, deputies practice attack response

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Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last December, local law enforcement and school officials have been stepping up security.

McMinn County is kicking it up another notch by acting out fake attacks in an effort to prepare deputies for a worst case scenario.

Shortly after the Sandy Hook tragedy, the McMinn County Sheriff's Office and school board worked together to assess their schools' safety and make emergency response plans. Wednesday, they took those plans from paper and into a school to put them to the test, complete with a fake shooter and teachers and students pretending to be victims.

Each drill started with a fake shooter bombarding Rogers Creek Elementary School. 911 dispatched deputies stationed around the county to respond. Actors lined the halls, displaying different victim behaviors that officers might encounter in a real attack.

"I was the guy misdirecting, trying to get the responding deputies to go another direction, but they never paid attention to me. They just kept doing what they were supposed to do," teacher/participant Tim Daugherty said.

As deputies searched for the man playing a shooter, he took a hostage.

"Even though it's not real, it was very real at that moment," school counselor/participant Angel Emrey said.

"We wanted the officers to actually experience entering an incident like this. It's something they hear a lot about in the classroom and they can watch videos, but it's another thing to participate in it," McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy said.

After each run through, they critiqued themselves, learned how to do it better, and changed out responding deputies.

"To re-look a situation where we can role play and review, so it's a good planning situation," McMinn County Schools Supervisor of Safety Vant Hardaway said.

Participants say they also benefited by seeing first hand how seriously the deputies are taking their safety.

"Gives me more confidence that everything can turn out better than it probably would have if we hadn't been doing this," Daugherty said.

"Makes me feel better about our school safety," student/participant Will Guy said.

"There's always the unknown, but now we've practiced it and have a plan," Emrey said.

"We want to focus on eliminating the threat and then go into our recovery mode. The quicker we have the threat eliminated, the less casualties you're going to have," Sheriff Guy said.

The McMinn County Sheriff's Office and school officials say they did the response exercise at Rogers Creek Elementary School based off of its vulnerabilities, like being the furthest away and being a somewhat open campus by not having a fence around the perimeter.

They do plan on conducting more practices at other McMinn County schools in the future.

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