The pleas for help filled the air, already thick with the acrid smell of gunpowder and with a further layer of confusion added with the sound of an automatic weapon firing.
It’s just the level of realism Effingham County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ed Myrick and Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie want for their annual active shooter training, under way at the Marlow Learning Center.
Teams of officers comb through the dark halls of the old Marlow Elementary School, looking for a suspected gunman, armed with an assault rifle, while trying to figure out friend from foe along the way.
“What happens is, as soon as the first shotgun blast goes off or someone gets hit with a round, everything changes,” Sgt. Myrick said. “The adrenaline jumps and they are going to react in real life how they train here.”
But the scenario could take place anywhere, and the ECSO also brought in the Society of Human Resource Managers and corporate representatives. They were briefed on what to do in hostage and active-shooter situations.
“This training is not just limited to schools,” Sheriff McDuffie said. “You probably see more workplace violence than school-related violence. This shows us some of our strengths and some of our weaknesses.”
Also on hand were Effingham Fire and Rescue and Effingham County EMS, as the training also involved getting “victims” out of the building to a triage station and then to the hospital. LifeStar also was involved in the scenario.
“We have every aspect of first responders in Effingham County involved in this training,” Myrick said.
What the law enforcement and emergency agencies are training for at the Marlow Learning Center also can be applied to places other than schools.
“This can be a business situation, it can be a courthouse situation, it can be a school situation,” Myrick said.
The business world representatives also were instructed what to do if a law enforcement officer enters their building in such a situation.
“If he puts a gun on you and tells you to get on the ground, then get on the ground,” McDuffie said. “In the real world, glue yourself to the ground.”
The active-shooter situation is one of the least trained for and least prepared for occurrences, Myrick said.
“The schools do more training on fire than they do on active shooter, but there have been more instances of an active shooter than a fire,” he said.
The sheriff said he’d like to extend their crime prevention efforts throughout the schools and workplaces.
The ECSO will be conducting the training at Marlow Learning Center throughout the week.