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Over a dozen agencies take part in active threat simulations at Strongsville High School

First responders share lessons learned after recent mass shootings
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Posted at 12:53 PM, Aug 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-10 22:43:45-04

STRONGSVILLE, Ohio — More than a dozen different agencies of first responders took part in school shooting simulations at Strongsville High School Wednesday.

The practice included simulated gunfire and rescue scenarios. About a hundred teachers were staged inside the school watching the simulations unfold on a closed circuit television, while other teachers were placed throughout the school simulating their normal work day.

"Nobody has been given a script," Strongsville Police Chief Mark Fender said. "The only people that know what is going on is about four people."

"I can tell you the anxiety of my staff today is quite high," Dr. Cameron Ryba, Superintendent at Strongsville City School District said. "Hopefully it never happens in our school district or any district, but should it happen, we have that muscle memory of that training to help us to the best we possibly can in that situation."

According to Education Week, there have been 27 school shootings in the United States in 2022 as of August 10.

"We have a live scenario and two other breakout sessions going on," Bryan Kloss, Cuyahoga County Emergency Operations Manager said. "We’re teaching law enforcement and medic certain medical applications as well as response applications."

About a month ago, Fender said another test took place with Southwest Emergency Dispatch Center, with a scenario at the high school.

“We discovered we had some shortcomings, we corrected those, and we will retest them today again," he said. "We’re going to take our training to the next level and test our capabilities."

First responders, as well as school staff, also spent part of the day reviewing and critiquing their responses during the drills.

"It exposes your weaknesses but also highlights your strengths," Fender said. "The idea here is we’re going to walk away from today with an action plan to say 'Here are some things we’re going to do a little better in,' but overall, we’ve had a plan here for years."

This day of simulations, which took about three months of preparation, was already in the works before 19 students and two teachers died in a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.

RELATED: Texas lawmakers question officials involved in Uvalde shooting

"It brought back the sense of being hyper-vigilant," Fender said of the shooting in Uvalde. "We’re reassessing and re-evaluating everything we do."

"When we see these tragic things that have occurred across the country all too often, we all take a step back and say what can we do better," said Brunswick Police Chief Brian Ohlin.

Among those agencies taking part in the simulation include Strongsville City Schools, Cuyahoga Emergency Communications Systems, Southwest Emergency Dispatch Center, Cuyahoga County Emergency Management, Strongsville Volunteers In Policing (VIPs), Strongsville Police & Fire Emergency Services, North Royalton Police & Fire Emergency Services, Middleburg Hts Police & Fire Emergency Services, Berea Police & Fire Emergency Services, Brunswick Police & Fire Emergency Services, Brunswick Hills Police & Fire Emergency Services, Brook Park Police, Olmsted Township Police, Parma Fire Emergency Services, Southwest General Hospital, Cleveland Metro Lifeflight, and Cleveland Clinic Critical Care Transport.

Fender added the cooperation between these agencies also extends in the form of mutual aid agreements, where departments would be able to instantly support one another in the event they had to deal with a mass casualty or active threat situation.

" Most of us have been doing a form of training for at least 20 years since Columbine," he said. "The other part of this component is what our teachers are going to be forced to do inside. Do they have the ability to get into the room and lock it down? Are they in a position to run and get out of the building? Or is the event taking place so close to them they’re going to have to act? Are they going to fight because that’s the reality we’re living in today?"