Chickashanews.com

May 17, 2013

GCEM prepares for active shooter with excercise

Tiffany Martinez
The Express-Star

CHICKASHA —

Preparation is the key to any emergency, according to Grady County Emergency Management Director Dale Thompson. Other emergency responders share the same sentiment, and are planning an active shooter tabletop exercise to kick the county’s potential crisis plans into high gear.

“I try to do a county wide exercise of some kind every year,” Thompson said. “In light of all the school shootings we’ve had in the past couple of years I wanted to do an active shooter.”

The exercise, which will incorporate numerous community agencies, will take place at 9 a.m. on May 21 at the student union of the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma (USAO). 

“USAO hired a new chief of security a little over a year ago,” Thompson said. “And this time they incorporated emergency management into his duties, which is great because [Grady County] has never really had a working relationship with the university.”

Thompson has worked diligently to plan the tabletop exercise for the last six months. 

“I’ve got a presentation that I pass out to everybody and we go through steps and procedures,” Thompson said. “They’ll be asked what they would do in certain situations, and if they have emergency operation plans in place to deal with a type of circumstance.”

Although Grady County has been fortunate enough to have escaped any real danger up until now, Thompson said you can never be too careful.

“It’s not if it will happen,” he said, “it’s only a matter of when — you have to have that mindset.”

Thompson emphasized that learning the area and the layout of the building is vital in proper planning for crises.

The tabletop exercise is meant to be the first of two key drills.

“You do everything at the tabletop in a controlled environment where you can ask questions of one another,” Thompson said. “And then you go out in the field. Hopefully in the summer time we can actually role-play it. We will have a shooter, we will have trucks roll, we will have the police department there and various strategic response teams.”

According to Grady County Sheriff’s Public Relations Officer Lisa Hatchett, there are numerous tabletop exercises that take place across the state on a yearly basis. Although the topics of these exercises vary, they all share the same goal.

“You have to figure out, in advance, what you do in certain situations,” Hatchett said. “This will allow our first responders to be trained and ready to go.”

Hatchett said she attended a tabletop exercise on a massive flu outbreak last November and she has valued her experience there in light of recent events.

“You may think it’s never going to happen,” she said, “but they just had a big outbreak up north so you never know when an emergency will occur. It’s best to be very prepared.”