West Liberty University holds an active shooter drill | News, Sports, Jobs
WEST LIBERTY — West Liberty University Police Chief Ron Fox, when another mass shooting hits the news, often hears from others that such a tragedy would never happen in a town like West Liberty.
But Fox said a small town like the one that houses the West Liberty University campus is exactly the type of place where such shootings do happen.
Fox wants the West Liberty campus to be as prepared as possible in case the worst ever happens, so the university held its first active shooter drill on its grounds Thursday afternoon. The drill, which was held in the WLU Hall of Fine Arts building, included not just the university police department, but also the Ohio County Sheriff’s Office, the Ohio County Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency, the West Liberty Fire Department and WLU’s Critical Incident Response Team.
Mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Buffalo, N.Y., have brought mass shootings back to the forefront of the public consciousness, but Fox said he has been thinking about conducting a drill like this for much longer. The drill likely would have happened earlier if not for limitations from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been planning this for quite a while,” Fox said. “You can see the news and see all the things that are taking place across the country. Our goal is to be prepared. You can learn from everybody.
“This was our first drill, so our goal was to keep getting better and keep training,” he added. “We want to be prepared for that day.”
Retired Ohio County Sheriff’s Deputy Matt Moore portrayed the shooter, who came down a hallway at the fine arts building with a 12-gauge shotgun. The response included campus-wide e-mail communication and real-time response from local public safety agencies and first responders.
Law enforcement officers were tasked with securing the area, subduing the shooter and caring for victims as EMTs arrived to transport those victims out of the building and to the hospital. Those officers came in several waves, searching not only for the suspect, but for victims and those who were hiding and needed to escape safely.
Ohio County Sheriff Tom Howard said an added benefit to the WLU drill was that senior counselors from the West Virginia Sheriffs Association Youth Leadership Academy — which is being held at the university — were able to participate and get a taste of what their possible future calling could be.
Howard’s deputies have participated in many drills like Thursdays, and he said they always appreciate the opportunity to hone their skills.
“All training is good training,” he said.
WLU President W. Franklin Evans said the drill was a great addition to the training his campus police receive, and that it was good to see just how law enforcement and first responders from throughout the area would react to such an event at West Liberty.
“We are so grateful to the many safety agencies and professionals that were involved today in this important practice session,” Evans said. “I am certain that the drill will provide valuable lessons and feedback in keeping the campus, our students, employees and visitors safe.
“It is reassuring to know that West Liberty University has so many safety professionals assisting campus on these matters,” he added
Fox said he and his officers will review what went right and what went wrong from Thursday’s drill and use that info to get better. Right after the drill, he said officers did a good job in initially addressing the situation and neutralizing the threat, but could have been more attentive in making sure all areas were secure later in the event.
“You want to be as good as you can be,” Fox said. “(Recent mass shootings) just reaffirm that it’s not going away. … It can happen and we just need to be ready.”