A man posing as a florist has pulled a gun from a bouquet of flowers in the lobby of Pine Elementary School. What do you do now?
That was the scenario posed to local emergency officials who took part in a half-day emergency response exercise.
With the prevalence of school and other mass shootings nationwide, it was a situation all too real.
To test their readiness, nearly every local law enforcement department converged on the school last month.
However, unlike many active shooter trainings, officers didn’t sweep through the school in full SWAT gear, guns drawn with hostage actors. Instead, they held tabletop exercises, working with teachers and school staff, on decision-making, coordination and communication.
Pine school used the exercise to put its new Emergency Operations Plan to the test, said Michael Reichling, P-S fire marshal.
Working at separate stations, law enforcement in one corner, school staff in the center of the auditorium and firefighters off in another corner, each group answered questions that tested their decision-making.
At the end, everyone came together to see what worked and what needs improvement.
Pete Licavoli, Gila County Sheriff’s Office Pine school resource officer, worked hours on Pine’s plan, which they’ll roll out next year in Tonto Basin, Young and other county schools.
“The goal is to keep these kids safe,” said Reichling. “The plan tells us what we need to do and how to do it.”
Communication is always the biggest challenge. Putting the incident command system to the test revealed that a unified command works, but still has kinks.
In all, the U.S. Forest Service, Arizona Game and Fish, state parks, GCSO, Gila County Division of Health and Emergency Management, P-S Fire, Payson Police and P-S school participated.