Practice for the unthinkable scenario

Sheriff’s office, Perrydale conduct drills

A Polk County deputy at Saturday's training at Perrydale School listens a debrief after a drill.

Photo by Jolene Guzman
A Polk County deputy at Saturday's training at Perrydale School listens a debrief after a drill.

PERRYDALE — Keep moving.

That was the advice Polk County Sheriff’s deputy Gregg Caudill gave deputies at Saturday’s active shooter drill at Perrydale School.

Standard Response Protocol

Lockout — Used when a threat or hazard is outside the building.

Students: Return to the inside of the building. Do business as normal.

Teachers: Bring students inside. Increased situational awareness. Take roll, account for students.

Lock down — Used when a threat or hazard is inside the building.

Students: Move away from sight. Stay silent.

Teachers: Lock classroom door. Turn lights out. Move away from sight. Stay silent. Wait for first responders to open the door. Take roll, account for students.

Evacuation — Students and school employees move to an announced location.

Students: Bring your phone. Leave your stuff behind. Form a single file line. Show your hands. Be prepared for alternatives during response.

Teachers: Grab roll sheets if possible. Lead students to evacuation location. Take roll, account for student.

Shelter — Used for hazards such as weather or chemical incident.

Example strategies: evacuate to shelter area (weather). Seal the room (chemical incident).

Students: Take appropriate strategy depending on the situation.

Teachers: Take appropriate strategy depending on the situation. Take roll, account for students.

Caudill, Sgt. Jason Ball and Sheriff Mark Garton, the trainers for the day, watched closely as deputies walked through the doors and searched for bad guys, ready to confront whatever they might find.


Polk County deputies search for a "suspect" in a scenario at Perrydale School on Saturday.

Like their jobs every shift, the deputies are given basic information, but they don’t really know what they will find until they arrive.

In partnership with Perrydale, students, staff and sheriff’s office volunteers posed as victims or suspects. Trainers set up loud sound effects, screaming and shooting to lead responders to the danger and had role-players create chaos by calling for help and running past the deputies.

Suspects and deputies carry training weapons that fired paint bullets, so trainers know who they hit.

“That’s what this is, reality-based training, as real as we can get it,” Garton said. “Back when we started, we didn’t have any of this stuff.”


A Polk County deputy begins a search in at active shooter drill on Saturday.

He said the sheriff’s office started using Confrontational Simulation training, or CONSIM, about 10 years ago. Before that, deputies practiced defense techniques and firearms training to prepare what the job would bring them.

Garton said the point is to mimic confusion and adrenaline officers would experience if the incident were real.

Each scenario changed slightly, and the masks used to protect deputies and volunteers from the paint rounds constricted sight and hearing. Caudill said officers under high stress can experience “tunnel vision” and that they need to use breathing techniques to combat effects of adrenaline.


Polk County Sheriff's Office practiced defensive tactics at Perrydale School on Saturday.

Most of all, they need to stay focused on the target, he said.

“Just remember, we’ve got to keep moving. Don’t stop in the hallways. Don’t stop in the classrooms. Move, move, move,” Caudill said during a debrief after a drill. “Wherever the sound comes from, you go there.”

Garton said the protocol in the past was to wait until a group of officers arrived to confront suspects. For small departments with just a few officers on a shift, the wait may take too much time as other agencies would have to respond. Now the emphasis is on stopping suspects as soon as possible, he said.

“We go where the problem is,” Garton said. “That’s how we save lives.”

Perrydale Superintendent Eric Milburn said when Caudill asked him about training at the school, he was happy to help. Saturday’s CONSIM session has been in the works since January.

Milburn played a victim on Saturday.

“It’s good to see the scenarios and the possibilities that happen at the school, and seeing how the police force reacts to them,” Milburn said. “This gives us a good idea of how we can prepare, how our students and staff could prepare for anything that could happen.”

Spencer Bibler, a former student who volunteered for the drill, said he could see the benefit of officers running through the scenarios.

“Now they are doing so much better,” he said following several run-throughs. “This is so important.”

Milburn said the school uses Standard Response Protocol through I Love You Guys to address school emergencies, ranging from a safety threat to chemical spills.

“There’s a common language when there’s any kind of emergency response,” Milburn said. “Their training is to make sure that everyone involved from emergency, police, fire and school staff are using the same language, so everybody knows what is going on, so there’s no confusion.”

Students said their teachers have talked to them about what to do in an emergency.

“They told us to stay calm and stay hidden and tell our younger siblings, so they can be prepared,” said student Isley Burns.

Saturday was a learning experience for the role-players, too. They were instructed to always have their hands up when moving through the school.

Junior Abi Bibler said in addition to that, she learned early what not to do in an emergency.

“Don’t surprise the officers,” she said, smiling.

Milburn said the focus will remain on being ready.

“This week, we’ve done the lockdown and lockout drills, and we had this to try to get prepared,” he said. “Hopefully we never have to use it.”

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