Nearly 60 school districts gather for tabletop active shooter training

Published: Sep. 21, 2022 at 6:12 PM CDT
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MACOMB (WGEM) - On Tuesday, school district officials from nearly 60 districts from across west-central Illinois gathered at Western Illinois University to engage in active shooter tabletop exercises.

The training was split into two different sessions, both occurring simultaneously. One session was for districts to assess what resources they could offer a school in the event of a scenario. In the second session, district officials assessed their own incident management plan.

Gathering a large number of schools for this purpose has been a decades long goal for Macomb Superintendent Patrick Twomey. He said it’s not often that rural schools come together to work collaboratively.

“It’s really about the experience of diving into your plan and identifying where your gaps are at,” Twomey said. “We’ve known for a very long time that rural schools are not as prepared as we could be.”

The training is part of P3 Partnerships, an effort that Twomey is spearheading to unite schools.

“Schools have always been individual silos, so we’re changing that narrative here in west-central Illinois to come together as regional teams,” Twomey said. “We practice, so we can be the best we can possibly be.”

McDonough County Emergency Services and Disaster Agency (ESDA) Director Edgar Rodriguez noted that it’s important for rural schools to have each other’s backs because of the potential lack of resources.

“Here in rural communities we are not resource rich,” Rodriguez said. “Building this partnership with surrounding school districts and developing knowledge of how we’re going to operate is part of the reason why we want this training to happen.”

Working collaboratively, West Prairie Superintendent Guy Gradert added that the knowledge each district can gain from one another is crucial.

“We’ve compared plans and we’ve even gotten to the point where there are specific ways in which our districts can come together to help one another.” Gradert said.

Gradert mentioned some ways schools can help each other is by providing counselors and reunification sites.

One session was lead by Vice President of Physical Security Services for Facility Engineering Associates (FEA) Paul Timm.

Over the years, Timm has lead over 100 tabletop exercise discussion panels. His first time at a rural conference was Tuesday. Timm said rural districts can no longer wait until a worst-case scenario happens to see if their plan works.

“For too long we’ve left rural schools to hope that everything goes well or to imagine that nothing could ever go bad,” Timm said. “Everything we do must be collaborative, and we understand emergency responders are there to save, so we’ve got to make sure we’re well connected.”

Twomey indicated that one or two more training sessions could take place in the spring. Additionally, reunification training could happen next summer.

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