MCBAIN — Missaukee County and McBain Schools are looking at possible improvements after conducting an active shooter exercise last month.
Missaukee County Planning and Emergency Management Director Linda Hartshorne-Shafer discussed the exercise and some key takeaways during a recent county board meeting. Having spent months planning out the exercise, Hartshorne-Shafer said it was a good learning experience for everyone involved.
“It was a great opportunity to see how things would actually be working if there was an emergency and that allowed you to see how you could do things better,” she said.
The biggest thing the school discovered was the 800 MHz radios law enforcement uses don’t work well in the building. McBain School Superintendent Scott Akom it’s not uncommon for the newer radios to not work well in the building, however, it was surprising how badly they didn’t work.
To address the issue, Akom said the school is looking at getting boosters to help with radio communication.
“We’re working with a company now,” Akom said. “They’ve developed a plan for what we need and now we’re working out the cost of it.”
Another thing being looked at is rekeying the school. Akom said by making the locks more uniform, it would make it easier for law enforcement to clear the building in case of an emergency.
Hartshorne-Shafer said the exercise itself is kept fairly small due to the difficulty of getting everyone involved together on the same day. Those involved in the exercise included individuals from the county administration, sheriff’s department, EMS, local fire departments, school staff, the U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Corps and a few emergency managers from other countries. There were 50 total participants in the exercise.
The scenario was a student had shot another one and incapacitated the school security guard. Dispatch simulated taking calls and texts about the incident and a special event channel was required from the state. This means a special channel was dedicated to law enforcement for the emergency to minimize radio traffic.
Hartshorne-Shafer said law enforcement then went into the school to search out the shooter and clear the building. Actors were used to play students and she said it was law enforcement’s job to ensure not of them were the shooter.
After the shooter was located and placed in custody, EMS was allowed to come in and triage patients.
Everyone then met in the school auditorium and participated in a hot wash. This is where the exercise was discussed feedback was collected from the participants.
The exercise was quite a learning experience for everyone involved. Missaukee County Sheriff Wilbur Yancer said it was good education and training for his deputies in case an active shooter scenario ever played out in the county.
“We hope that we never have to put those skills into action obviously in our community, but there is that chance so it’s good to be trained and to have that at the forefront of everybody’s mind,” he said.
Missaukee County EMS Director Aaron Sogge said the exercise gave his staff the opportunity to take their training and apply it to an emergency scenario like an active shooter. He also said the exercise also presented a good challenge for everyone involved.
“We’re able to see with each discipline, whether it’s the sheriff’s department, fire, or EMS, what’s going to tax it and what’s going to push it to its brink,” he said.
The results of the exercise won’t just benefit Missaukee County. Hartshorne-Shafer said they had three emergency managers from other countries who were there to evaluate the exercise and use it as a learning experience, too.
“They’re able to watch we do things and they can pick up on things that might work well in their counties as well,” she said. “But they also provide feedback to me and how they do things in their county.”
“So, it’s mutually beneficial. We learned from one another.”
The goal will be to hold future exercises, possibly with different scenarios at different locations. Though nothing has been decided, Hartshorne-Shafer said she would like to create a larger and more complex scenario and involve more participants, such as the Michigan State Police.