Shell Knob school exercise reveals response flaws

Thursday, May 16, 2013
Photo by Robbie Artherton Shooter training held in Shell Knob The Barry County Sheriff's Office held an active shooter training exercise at the Shell Knob School on May 9. Several local law enforcement agencies and emergency responders participated in the event. In the photo above, teachers are evacuated from the school by emergency workers.

Area law enforcement officials hosted an active shooter training exercise at Shell Knob #78 School District on Thursday, and learned there were glitches within the district and with their response that could impede a real-life scenario.

Barry County Sheriff Mick Epperly identified one area of concern as the metal buildings blocking radio signals of first responders and law enforcement officials responding to the school.

"The metal blocked our radio signals," Epperly said. "We're in the process of upgrading our radio equipment and learning what it will take to communicate in situations like that."

The layout of the school also proved to be problematic for law enforcement officials in the exercise.

"The school is cut up and divided in many ways," Epperly said. "But it's good our officers know that and know the challenges of responding to that situation. We're going back in the fall to do the exercise again." Although it was a training exercise, one of the 38 participating officers was injured in the event.

"Paul Ferguson, with the Monett Police Department, was running across the lawn and took down one of 'the bad guys' and tore his ACL," Epperly said. It is the anterior cruciate ligament, one of four major ligaments in the human knee. "One of the two ambulances actually did leave with a casualty. But again, these things can happen in a real situation as well.

"Things could have gone better," Epperly said. "But that's why we're here. This is a learning exercise for all of us."

Epperly plans to host more of the active shooter exercises at various schools across the county.

"We'll keep doing it until I feel comfortable with it," he said.

Agencies participating in Thursday's exercise included: Monett, Exeter, Seligman, Washburn and Wheaton police departments; the Barry County Sheriff's Office; Central Crossing Fire Department; the Missouri Department of Conservation; and Cox Ambulance Service.

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