Envisioned by Gov. Ted Strickland following the Virginia Tech shooting incident in April 2007, OSHP was given the task of creating a training program for law enforcement that utilized a technique different from the one used in the past.
A team of area law enforcement officers from OSHP, Scioto County Sheriff's Office and Portsmouth Police Department put their training into action Tuesday morning, at the recently vacated Wheelersburg Elementary and Junior High schools.
Capt. Robert Woodford talked about the action, just before the various agencies entered the building.
"The scenario today is we're going to have active shooters in the school, and we're going to address it in the way that we arrive at the school, and where our shootings are occurring at that time. We're going to have a very aggressive program that we've practiced, called Direct Threat, and we have training units that are going into the school as a team and systematically search the school in a very rapid way," he said.
Woodford said the new system used to end a shooter scenario is different from before.
"We don't take the time to check every little nook and cranny as we go around, we just go. It's more dangerous to the officers, because they really do have to put some of the things we've been taught in the past aside, and that is the big difference in this," he said. "Because in the other school shootings in our country, when they first started, officers arrived, they secure the scene and wait on other help or special response teams, and that's not the theory anymore. The theory is, we go in and save lives, and stop that threat and do that systematic search that we do."
Woodford said the reason the strategy has changed is because of the imminent danger posed by allowing the situation to continue inside the building, while officers set up outside.
"Because at the other schools, while they were waiting on their help, children were dying. It doesn't work," he said.
Minutes later, an alarm sounded and teams responded, at one point rushing past the "body" of a young girl who was part of the exercise.
After the first team entered the building, a squad of six officers listened for a radio signal, then they, too, rushed the building.
What made the various teams different was the fact they were not assigned to be with their own units. Each unit was made up of personnel from each agency.
"There are some other agencies here from around the state that want to view this, because they're getting ready to do some things in their counties," Woodford said. "We'll probably be doing more in the other schools with it."
Capt. David Hall, of Scioto County Sheriff's Office, said the unity of the various departments was critical to the operation.
"We're going in unison. We're going in the same way. Everyone has been trained the same, so it doesn't matter which agencies we have at the scene," Hall said. "If we have any emergency at any school in the county or in the city, we can all jump in and do it the same way. We have all been trained the same way."
An information center was set up at the time of the exercise at the Porter Township Building, a block away from the school, where news media would be briefed if the situation was real, and a church on Charlevoix Avenue was designated as the location where parents would receive information.
The group met with Kim Carver, director of the Scioto County Emergency Management Agency, after the exercise for a critiquing session.
FRANK LEWIS can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.