JEFFERSON-If you happen to see a swarm of emergency responders descend on the Ashe County Courthouse on Jan. 19 – don’t worry – that’s all part of the plan.
The Ashe County Emergency Management Office is alerting the public about a full-scale active shooter training exercise at the courthouse this week. Here’s what you need to know.
Courthouse will be shutdown
The drill begins at noon, according to a release issued by Ashe County Emergency Management Coordinator Patty Gambill, and the courthouse will be closed to the public until the exercise wraps up.
You might hear the action on a police scanner
But don’t worry, Gambill said. “We realize that there’s a significant number of citizens who routinely monitor their scanners and that, combined with the widespread use of social media, can sometimes lead to concern, confusion and misinformation,” Gambill said. ““Sometimes when we have an exercise, a listener will miss the first part of the broadcast that states the incident is an exercise which can lead to individuals thinking they are listening to a real event. Since this exercise involves a very public place where many have friends and relatives employed, we want citizens to be well informed about the event.”
It’s training for the unthinkable
Namely, an active shooter situation inside the confines of the Ashe County Courthouse. It’s not the first drill of its kind, either. Ashe County Sheriff James Williams said his office has carried out similar drills at Ashe County High School in the past.
Everybody has a part to play
County employees will practice how to respond to an active shooter event in the workplace, while emergency responders will rehearse their response to a mass casualty, active-shooter scenario during the training. The training will include simulated gunfire and mock up injuries, with some participants transported by EMS agencies to the hospital for simulated treatment.
And multiple agencies will take part
Including the Ashe County Emergency Management Office, the Ashe County Sheriff’s Office, Ashe County courthouse employees, Ashe County Clerk of Court’s office and other state court staff, Jefferson Police Department, Ashe Medics, Ashe County Rescue Squad, Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department, Helton Ambulance, Fleetwood Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department, Ashe Memorial Hospital, Wilkes Community College, Ashe County High School Health Occupations students will all be participating in the exercise. The exercise is being planned and facilitated by RLMC-Group LLC and is being funded by a U.S. Homeland Security grant through the North Carolina Public Safety Department Emergency Management Division.
It’s about working the kinks out now
An actual shooting incident would test all facets of law enforcement and emergency response, Gambill said. “It is essential for emergency responders to practice what they learn in training, and the active shooter training exercise will allow us to evaluate our response,” said Gambill. “If our community ever has to deal with such a tragic incident, I want to be confident that we can provide the best possible response. It is also important for county employees to know how to address and respond to high stress situations.”