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Ephrata hosts active shooter roundtable exercise

by REBECCA PETTINGILL
Staff Writer | November 22, 2022 2:54 PM

EPHRATA — The Ephrata School District hosted a number of first responders, emergency personnel and district staff Monday for a tabletop exercise to prepare involved agencies as well as identify any places for improvement in the case of an active shooter incident at the high school.

“The worst time to be shaking hands is when you show up at the disaster,” said Kyle Foreman, Emergency Management Specialist with the Grant County Sheriff’s Office. “So we all took the effort to meet so we gain familiarity with not only each other but with what each other's policies are, what limitations we have and what strengths we can all bring to the effort because it takes an entire community to make this successful.”

The Ephrata School District, Ephrata Fire Department, Ephrata Police Department, City of Ephrata Public Works, Grant County Sheriff's Office, American Medical Response Grant County, Washington State Department of Transportation Eastern Region HQ and Washington Emergency Management Division all participated in the event.

“What we did is pick up where we left off before the pandemic and we do plan on continuing having these activities with our community first responders,” said Frank Cardwell, Ephrata School District safety director.

When asked if they were concerned about there being a big risk for Ephrata to be in an active shooter situation, Cardwell said: “Not at all, it’s just always important to plan.”

He also explained that this was not a one-time thing, that they would continue with their safety planning and talking with the community regularly to ensure families are also prepared and informed in the event of an emergency.

Foreman said the exercise broke down into two main objectives: to determine the capabilities and limitations of different organizations and to improve communication with the public in crisis situations.

The event allowed veteran personnel a refresher, let new personnel become familiar with the policies and procedures and informed attendees about the Emergency Management Division and what it does, Foreman said.

The learning was structured around evidence from previous active shooter incidents, he said. For example, Frontier Middle School was the scene of a school shooting in 1996, but many of the police who responded to the incident are no longer in law enforcement or have left the area. Because of that, responders try to learn from that incident and others around the country in case they are ever put in the same situation.

“Because none of us have any (recent real-life) experience with active shooters around here, we have to rely on the documentation of what others who have experienced active shooter incidents, what they experienced, so we can learn from them,” said Foreman.

Rebecca Pettingill may be reached at rpettingill@columbiabasinherald.com.

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