Justin Hall and Patty Leon
There have been 384 mass shootings reported in the United States in 2022 so far, according to gunviolencearchive.org. Included in those numbers are the tragic incidents at schools such as the one that took place in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24.
In an effort to be better prepared for such a tragedy, the Liberty County Office of Emergency Management, local law enforcement agencies, county officials, Board of Education members, Liberty Regional Medical Center personnel and firefighters and first responders conducted an Active Shooter Tabletop Exercise on July 27 at the Performing Arts Center.
According to Liberty EMA Deputy Director Thomas “Trip” Duke, the tabletop exercise simulated an active shooter emergency at Liberty County High School.
“The purpose of this exercise is to assess Liberty County’s capabilities to respond to and recover from an active shooter incident,” Duke said. “Members of the county reviewed and discussed actions we would yield in this particular emergency, testing our emergency plans in an informal, low-stress environment.”
The exercise included various modules allowing the agencies to discuss how they would respond to an active shooting event. Those steps included how to secure the children and the facility and to subdue the active shooter. It also addressed who and how to deal with the influx of calls from parents and the media and reuniting children with their parents after the incident.
Duke said the tabletop allowed the various first responders and law enforcement agencies to clarify roles and responsibilities and to identify additional school mitigation and preparedness needs. The exercise also resulted in action plans for continuous improvement of emergency preparedness.
“The objective of the tabletop exercise was to strengthen the overall response plan and review any associated response procedures through a guided discussion of an active shooter emergency scenario for Liberty County High School,” Duke said.
County Commission Chairman Donald Lovette said he was happy to see the partnership between the EMA, the school system and others, adding that they were being proactive rather than reactive.
“I think it’s very vital to do that now,” Lovette said, “especially with what’s going on in America. We want to be ahead of the game, put our heads together, do the best training we can do and be strategic and give our citizens a sense of assurance that should something happen — and we pray that it doesn’t — we’d be prepared to do the very best that we can.”
Liberty County Sheriff ’s Office Chief Deputy Max Brown said the exercise reinforces the positive relationship the LCSO maintains with the school system.
“And, more importantly, I think this is phase one of our protection for the schools, and it gives the opportunity for the school system, Liberty County Sheriff ’s Office, emergency management, Liberty County, EMS and fire department to come together and really see what each team does,” Brown said.
“The greatness of our county is based on the quality of our leadership, employees and citizens and the effort we make every day to provide the best public service we possibly can,” Duke added.