homepage logo

This was only a drill

By Staff | Sep 1, 2013

A shooter was loose in the Blue Earth Area High School on Tuesday afternoon.

Staff and students were evacuated from the building and the facility was in lock down.

Five students were wounded and had to be taken away in ambulances.

Eventually the shooter was found and she was arrested.

Luckily this is one school shooting incident that won’t make the national news. It was all part of a mock drill for local law enforcement and emergency personnel.

“It was a cooperative drill with the sheriff’s department, Blue Earth and Winnebago Police Departments and Ambulance services and the Blue Earth Area school district,” says Ted Armon, ambulance service director at United Hospital District.

The drill has been in the planning stages for months. There have been five planning meetings, Armon says.

Those involved included County Sheriff Mike Gormley, Chief Deputy Scott Adams, deputy Mark Purvis and sheriff’s department emergency services director Lisa Frommie and tactical firearms instructor Scott Linde.

“We also had members of local police departments involved, including Tom Fletcher from Blue Earth and Brittany Gehrking from Winnebago.

Gehrking was the mock shooter.

Before the actual drill there were briefings and training in a BEA class room all morning.

Then at around 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday the incident was called in, pagers went off and the drill was underway.

“There was a four person sweep team that went room-to-room,” Armon says. “They cleared the building and located the shooter.”

Armon says “shots” were fired, but law enforcement used ‘simulation ammunition “sort of like paint balls on steroids.”

Teaching staff from the elementary and middle schools played the parts of students while high school teachers played themselves.

Five actual BEA High School students were instructed as to how to portray the victims. High school principal Rich Schneider was also involved in the drill both in planning and execution.

While law enforcement personnel did not divulge too much information in order to not give out tactical techniques, Armon says the event went well.

“We are very happy with the results,” Armon says. “We received a lot of positive feedback. While we hope and pray nothing like this would ever happen here, it is good to know we are all prepared if it does.”

He says everyone involved learned some good lessons. But, even more important was to get everyone on the same page as to what the response to this type of situation should be.

“We don’t want to show up at something like this and have to exchange names before we take action,” he says. “We want to know who everyone is and what everyone is in charge of doing.”

Armon says the plan was to stage the drill after the teachers were back in the building preparing for the school year, but before any students were there.

“We didn’t want to cause a big alarm, or get anyone upset or in a big panic,” he says. “We did not want to freak anybody out.”

And he adds once again, “God forbid we should ever have to actually do this for real here.”