VINCENT-Spent shell casings and exploded firecrackers littered the hallways of Warren High School Tuesday morning. Student volunteers laid sprawled against lockers, yelling for help.
Aside from the props and actors, the halls and classrooms at Warren were largely quiet and empty as the school executed an emergency preparedness drill featuring a member of the Washington County Sheriff's Office acting as a live shooter.
Both Warren High School and the Sheriff's Office have been preparing for the drill for a couple of months, and the students knew ahead of time what to expect, said Warren High School Principal Dan Leffingwell.
Warren High School Principal Dan Leffingwell, front, follows Lt. Randy Stackpole of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office through the high school Tuesday during the first ever active shooter drill. Warren students have been working with the Sheriff’s Office to better respond in the event that a gunman might enter the school.
JASMINE ROGERS The Marietta Times
"This is the first active shooter drill that we have done here and I think it is the first that has been attempted anywhere around here," said Leffingwell.
The drill was a far cry from the lockdowns that Warren has previously practiced. Until recently, many schools have focused on the A.L.I.C.E (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Escape) program with specific emphasis on a quick lockdown. However, new methods are asking students to focus less on locking down and more on countering and escaping.
"What we have always practiced before is lockdown. What we're trying to change is that concept of lockdown and wait for someone to arrive because that someone could be the shooter," said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.
Shooter drill at Warren High School
Meant to help students and staff better understand how to react in an active shooter situation.
Washington County Sheriff's Office and school officials have been working together for a couple of months prepare students and staff.
Students were given 15 minutes warning to notify their parents.
A 9:30 a.m., Lt. Randy Stackpole of the Washington County Sheriff's Office entered the school, acting as an armed gunman.
Stackpole shot blanks, never pointing the gun at students or staff.
The training was to reinforce a new method of thought in shooting situations-that students should avoid locking themselves into classrooms, but rather should evacuate and, if necessary, fight back.
Around 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Lt. Randy Stackpole of the Washington County Sheriff's Office, the fake shooter, entered the large lobby adjacent to Warren's parking. Flanked by observing officials from local schools and law enforcement agencies, Stackpole began firing blanks and a nearby officer began to set off firecrackers.
Within 30 seconds of the first shots being fired, two nearby classrooms had gone on lockdown. Fifty yards ahead, in the adjoining building, hundreds of students began pouring out of classrooms and exiting the building. The reaction from the students and staff was exemplary, said Washington County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Mark Warden.
"I truly believe your school is ready for an incident like this. Lord forbid this ever happen, but I think you are ready," said Warden to around 800 students and staff as they gathered in the gymnasium for a question and answer session after the drill.
Stackpole also spoke at the assembly, giving students his perspective as the perpetrator.
"I was telling Chief Warden, I looked up, and you all were gone. I'm telling you, you guys cleared out of this school unbelievably fast," he said.
The students were given notice 15 minutes ahead of time so they could alert their parents that the drill was about to begin, although they had already known it would be held Tuesday.
The Sheriff's Office also notified the residents of homes on nearby Warrior Drive about the drill, said Mincks.
The students reacted favorably to the drill, said Leffingwell.
Many students and teachers had questions about different scenarios at the assembly. For example, students questioned what they should do if an attack occurred in between classes or if multiple students were present.
"The reality is anything can happen at anytime. Our hope is we teach you to react in the best way possible which is what we tried to do today," said Leffingwell at the assembly.
Warren High School junior Jacob Powell said his classroom knew the shooter's location thanks to announcements made over the school's public announcement system. At Warren, every classroom is equipped with the ability to make a school-wide announcement over the intercom, said Leffingwell.
One teacher made an announcement immediately after the shooting started. Another teacher updated the school of the shooter's location a few minutes later.
Powell said that because of the announcement, his class barricaded the door and escaped out the classroom windows rather than fleeing into the hallway.
"It kind of got your blood rushing a little bit. It was pretty realistic," he said of the experience.
Another junior, Evan French, volunteered to be one of the fake victims for Friday's event.
"It was definitely an eye opener to see this is something that could actually happen," he said.
Tuesday's drill was not only for the students. Members of the Sheriff's Office entered the building several minutes after the shooter and sequestered him as they would have in a real situation.
Other nearby law enforcement agencies found the exercise useful as well, members said.
Witnessing an actual scenario is an invaluable teaching tool, said Lt. Brad Bond of the Morgan County Sheriff's Office.
Principal Will Hampton of Marietta Middle School and Belpre High School Assistant Principal Ben Cunningham took in Tuesday's drill in hopes of taking the information back to their respective schools.
"We appreciate this opportunity to observe law enforcement and gain some insight," said Cunningham.
The training is something the Sheriff's Office would like to implement in other schools as well, said Mincks.
"It would be something the school board would have to decide, but I think we would be very interested in trying this," said Hampton.
Before sending the students back to class, Leffingwell commended their fast, smart response to the situation.
"You know how to survive. You know how to take care of yourself. You know how to take care of the person next to you," concluded Leffingwell.