Active shooter drill held at Jefferson County Courthouse Friday | News
BROOKVILLE — An emergency drill conducted by the Jefferson County Department of Emergency Services caught the attention of many people passing through Brookville Friday morning, seeming realistic enough to cause passersby to stop and offer to help.
It started out as a calm, peaceful Friday morning in downtown Brookville. Finally, a break in the rain with sunny skies. Main Street was coming alive for the day and preparations was underway for the annual Laurel Festival. But all that changed at 8:53 a.m. when two actors entered the Jefferson County Courthouse shooting anyone in their way. Smoke grenades were lit and explosives and gunfire could be heard throughout the building. Employees and citizens started to evacuate and bystanders on the street were offering any assistance they could give. What seemed like an eternity, the rampage ended three minutes later when law enforcement took one shooter into custody and wounded the second one. Several people were critically hurt. Wait — this was only an exercise.
This scenario seems so common in the country today for many reasons that are hard to imagine. This is why Jefferson County is taking steps to protect all employees, elected officials and visitors that visit the county buildings on a daily basis. After months of training, it was time to put some of this to the test in a full scale exercise that was facilitated by the Jefferson County Department of Emergency Services.
The county Sheriff’s Office and Probation Officers were first on the scene, followed next by Brookville Police Department. Jefferson County EMS and Brookville Volunteer Fire Company were also summoned to the scene. While the exercise was designed to strengthen the security measures for the county, the other participating agencies added to the realistic approach that was needed to make this seem as real as possible.
Tracy W. Zents, director of Emergency Services who acted as the facilitator of the exercise, said, “This was the time to make mistakes. Correct them and be ready in a real situation.”
According to Zents, the scenario was only known to a couple of individuals. The shooters and himself. “We wanted the training of the sheriff’s office and probation department to dictate their course of actions without knowing what the motive of the shooters were or their intended target. They did really well based on how intense the exercise was designed. Hopefully, this is one training that never has to be put to the real test.”
“I would like to thank all the different agencies and county employees involved in the exercise,” said Chief Deputy Sam Bartley. “I would also like to thank all the citizens of Jefferson County for allowing this necessary and essential exercise to take place. I feel that this exercise is the most realistic and best educational training possible for an event that no one ever wants to think about happening. Every agency did their job and worked very well together. This exercise did show that Jefferson County does have a very detailed and thought out plan in place for this type of incident. The exercise also allowed every agency to give back their input and different ideas for improvement. I feel very confident that the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and all agencies involved will do their jobs to the fullest for the safety and security of the employees and citizens of Jefferson County.”
Most active shooter/killer events happen for only a few minutes. But the residual effects can last much longer. Active shooter/killer events are unpredictable and evolve quickly. Typically, the immediate deployment of law enforcement is required to stop the aggression and mitigate harm to victims. Individuals must be prepared both mentally and physically to deal with a situation like this.
Chad Weaver, court administrator for Jefferson County, said he was impressed on how well everything worked. “I’m very appreciate of the entire emergency services and law enforcements’ efforts to collaborate so quickly for this unfortunate, but necessary exercise.”
Multiple calls and text messages poured into the 9-1-1 center. “Understandably, the 9-1-1 center can get overwhelmed quickly with the amount of telephone calls, text messages and radio traffic that such a real event would bring,” Chris Clark, deputy director and 9-1-1 coordinator, said. “Stressing the system helps us to identify any problems that we can fix. We will look at everything and evaluate our response, but everyone worked well together.”
Commissioners Herb Bullers, Scott North and Jeff Pisarcik echoed the importance of exercises such as this. “This event was well planned by Tracy, Chris and the staff from the Department of Emergency Services. As county commissioners, we witnessed a variety of local law enforcement, men and women work as a team to assure the safety of everyone confined within the walls of the courthouse. The sheriff’s department, probation, Brookville police, ambulance crews and the fire departments showed the value of training for this kind of, but hope to never see type of event,” the commissioners said. “A big thank-you to everyone involved in the exercise. We truly appreciate the service of everyone involved.”
According to Zents, the next steps is to review all of the notes, photographs, videos and evaluations to prepare an after action report highlighting best practices and areas that need improvement.
“We had evaluators and observers from multiple entities that observed this exercise and provided us feedback. We know that if this happens in real life, this training is the first, first steps. Multiple resources from multiple counties and agencies will be needed.” Zents said.
Zents concluded that they will continue to address all threats and prepare the county for the future.