An “active shooter” exercise at Moultrie Technical College produced a law enforcement response time of less than five minutes, a flood of 18 answered calls to E-911 in just three minutes, a “dead” gunman inside of nine minutes of the first shot fired, more than 20 “wounded” faculty and student actors, and at least nine transports to Colquitt Regional Medical Center.
The safety and response drill on Friday morning used the entire MTC Veterans Parkway Campus and was the culmination of several months of planning and teamwork by multiple public safety agencies and the college, all satisfying their own internal requirements for holding such an exercise involving emergency response to a gunman on campus.
The goal for all participating agencies was to learn how to respond more effectively to minimize casualties and loss of life in a real-world, active shooter event, according to a press release from Moultrie Tech.
Moultrie Tech administrators were joined by the City of Moultrie Police Department, Colquitt County Sheriff’s Department, Colquitt County E-911, Colquitt County Emergency Medical Services (EMS), the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA), CRMC Emergency Services, City of Moultrie Fire Department, Southwest Georgia Public Health, and the Colquitt County Emergency Management Agency in putting together the full-scale active shooter training.
Played by Lt. Rod Howell of the Colquitt County Sheriff's Department, the shooter entered the B Building on campus at approximately 9:30 a.m. and immediately began pulling the trigger, firing off blanks from his automatic rifle and sending faculty members and students either to the floor with “injuries” or into hiding in offices, classrooms and stairwells.
He made his way up the steps to the second floor where he continued shooting indiscriminately and crossed over the outdoor walkway proceeding back down an exterior staircase. At this point in the exercise Howell was met with opposition as police officers and deputies, whose weapons’ firing capabilities had already been dismantled at a staging area off campus, arrived on the scene. Once all of his ammunition was exhausted, Howell discarded the rifle and switched to a loaded handgun before entering the first floor of Building A.
Simultaneously, Moultrie Tech’s emergency notification system, which employs voice, text and email messages, as well as an on-campus public address system, began alerting faculty, staff and students of the dangerous situation on campus. Anyone at the college was instructed to follow lockdown procedures, to get to a safe place, to silence cell phones, and to wait for a message of “all clear.” To alleviate any real fears on campus and for those receiving the automated alerts off campus, messages were preceded and concluded with “This is a drill. This is a drill.”
Four minutes later, law enforcement officers shot and “killed” the gunman in the main lobby of the MTC campus but not before he inflicted more wounds, some later declared fatal by Colquitt County EMS personnel, on the faculty and student actors.
The exercise, however, did not end with the shooter’s capture and death. As with all full-scale drills of this kind, the college stayed in lockdown mode until the last victim was transported to Colquitt Regional Medical Center, and the “all clear” was announced around 11:30 a.m. The drill concluded with a mock press conference facilitated by MTC’s Acting President Jim Glass and a debriefing session for all agencies represented.
During the debriefing session MTC Director of Facilities Steve Peacock, who led the planning of the exercise for the college, reiterated statements made by Technical College System of Georgia Campus Safety Coordinator Donna Burns earlier in the day.
“No other agency in the state of Georgia has done an active shooter exercise of this magnitude to date,” said Peacock.
Glass added, “This showed every single agency, including Moultrie Tech, where our weak spots are. We are going to do whatever we have to do to keep our faculty, staff and students safe.”
Colquitt County Emergency Management Director Russell Moody said of the active shooter drill, “We appreciate Moultrie Tech doing this for our community. Overall, it was a good exercise with a lot of lessons learned.”
Representatives from all agencies involved commented on the areas of success and on those with room for improvement. Lt. Tonero Bender of the Colquitt County Sheriff's Department said, “The planning was a huge undertaking but was great for law enforcement.” He noted that an area to improve upon would be communication among the multiple agencies in an actual mass casualty event.
City of Moultrie Police Sgt. Daniel Lindsay said the department had just recently trained in rapid deployment. “That training was used today,” he said. “The officers were doing exactly what they were supposed to be doing.”
Lindsay echoed Bender’s opinion also stating that an area of weakness in the exercise revealed that officers from multiple agencies were “bogged down with creating an incident command station at the scene.”
Noting the high volume of calls which came in regarding the shooter on campus in addition to real-world emergency calls, Colquitt County E-911 Director Teresa Warburg said, “We were very busy. Phones were ringing like crazy. This was so real. It wasn’t staged. It was good training for us, and they did what they were trained to do.”
Warburg added that E-911 dispatchers knew a drill was coming but didn’t know what kind or when. She stated that the exercise exposed the need for more dispatchers in the case of events like this one.
Colquitt County EMS Director Amy Williams also found strengths and weaknesses within her agency’s response and resources.
“Patient care and triage went very well,” Williams said, “but EMS could improve its services with better safety equipment and more protective gear.”
The CRMC Emergency Department cared for nine participant actors wearing injury, or moulage, wounds applied by Southwest Georgia Public Health division representatives. Posing as actual patients in need, four were listed as critical, four as non-emergent, and one as walking wounded. Emergency room employees commented that the wounds appeared so realistic that they didn’t think it was a drill.
Rita Gay, director of respiratory therapy at Colquitt Regional Medical Center, said of her team’s response, “Patients were treated appropriately at our emergency room. Communication and disaster response could be improved in our patient registration process and in our incident command structure.”
GEMA Field Coordinator Gary Rice shared words of advice following the safety drill saying, “Always take exercises and go back and evaluate policies and procedures to correct any shortfalls that may have been identified.”
Joey Hartley, division captain for the Moultrie Fire Department, closed out the debriefing interviews adding that he believed the exercise was a major success for all agencies involved.
“All got to play in each other’s sandbox, and nobody got hurt,” he concluded.