Vernon cops train for the worst

Township emergency personnel train for school shooting, lab explosion

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  • An “injured” student is shown being evacuated from the high school following a chemistry lab explosion and subsequent fire at the high school.

  • The lone gunman is shown after being shot and killed by Vernon Police. The shooter was portrayed by Vernon officer-in-training Brad Pindyck.

  • An “injured” student is shown being evacuated from the high school following a chemistry lab explosion and subsequent fire at the high school.

  • Photos by Chris Wyman With weapons drawn, three Vernon Township police officers and police dog “Hobbs” walk down a hall in the high school while looking for an armed gunman responsible for killing and wounding a yet unknown number of students.

VERNON — An all too tragic and yet recurring theme that rocks the air waves and makes front page news since Columbine, has been often gunmen racing through the halls of public schools and taking with them the lives and well being of a community’s children.

In order to prepare should a similar event transpire locally, police, fire and emergency personnel came together at Vernon Township High School on Aug. 16 to learn to cope and control an "active shooter" walking the school's halls.

Under the direction of Vernon Police Department Lt. Daniel Young, this first scenario was followed by a second emergency involving an explosion and subsequent fire in the school’s chemistry lab.

Just as in real life, the first responders arrived at the scene in a staggered sequence. First came police officers on patrol and near the school, then additional personnel who came from their respective headquarters, and then even more support from neighboring emergency agencies.

“The Emergency Drill we conducted at the Vernon Township High School gave the Emergency Services of Vernon Township an opportunity to come together and train using real life scenarios,” Young said.

Young said during the active shooter drill, police were able to practice their tactical training, which enabled them to use the most efficient, safe, and effective way to secure a building with victims, innocent bystanders, and a suspect inside.

After the shooter was neutralized and the situation was considered safe and secured, the police then called for the assistance of local fire departments and EMS personnel to care for and remove the injured victims in the quickest way possible. This was done while preserving the crime scene, maintaining order, and accounting for students and school employees.

During the second scenario — the chemistry lab explosion — emergency personnel focused on evacuating the building, proper scene preparation for apparatus (firefighting equipment and medical aid equipment), and then tending to victim’s injuries and removing them from the building.

“Both scenarios afforded us an opportunity to train in a real life setting and implement our response plans that we have in place," Young said. "After the scenarios we took time to critique what worked and what could have been done better. Overall, the training was a big success.”

Young acknowledged the efforts of all the members of the Vernon Fire Departments (Highland Lakes, Vernon, McAfee, and Pochuck), Vernon EMS (Glenwood Pochuck Volunteer Ambulance Squad and the Vernon Township Ambulance Squad) as well as participating Vernon police officers. He also praised the students in the Vernon PAL Youth Leadership Council, who were the actors for the scenarios. In addition, the fire departments’ Ladies Auxiliaries prepared lunch for everyone who assisted with the drill.

At the end of the day, Young said he was generally pleased with the success of the effort.

“I was impressed with the coordination between our police officers, firemen, and members of our EMS," Young said. "The skill level and knowledge from training and past experiences really came together and showed the continued partnership, level of abilities, and professionalism amongst our emergency services in their dedication to the community of Vernon Township.”

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