Active shooter

Officer Josh Welch of the LPD stands guard as the school building is evacuated.

On Monday morning, dozens of first-responders from multiple agencies prepared for something that they pray never happens — a shooting at Laurel High School.

The Laurel Police Department served as incident command as members of the Jones County Sheriff’s Department and Emergency Management Agency, Laurel School Resource officers, Laurel Fire Department and Jones County Volunteer Fire Service, EMServ Ambulance and South Central Regional Medical Center, the coroner’s office and LifeCare air ambulance personnel participated in the training. No students were present because of a holiday.

“We were role-playing a simulated shooting,” said Sgt. Doug Dickerson of the LPD, who helped coordinate the training with Rodney Parker of the EMA. “Still, it’s nerve-racking, the thought of this happening … but it’s an undeniable part of life now, so we have to be ready. Everybody has to know their part. We just pray the Lord it never happens here.”

LPD officers, armed with rifles, went down one wing of the school to “clear” the rooms of “suspects” so medical personnel could work with the “wounded.” From there, the “patients” were triaged, and the walking wounded and those who didn’t suffer any injuries were evacuated.

Those who were hurt more seriously were taken outside for medical personnel to assist an await ambulances. Those who were critically injured were wheeled to the football field to be airlifted. The drill went as far as to have LifeCare land on Blair Field and take off with Lacey Slay, the school district’s public information officer.

The exercise was a culmination of months of planning and preparation from emergency-response professionals from across the county. Volunteers from several health-care facilities acted as evaluators for the response areas.

“We are thankful for the willingness of our local first-responders to train in such detail for the safety of our schools,” said Laurel School District Superintendent Dr. Toy L. Watts. “Today was a wonderful example of cooperation and teamwork.”

Dickerson said he and Parker were pleased with the way the drill went.

“We were able to see the things that we may need to work on,” Parker said.

Dickerson added, “This way, we can see what we may need to improve on. Everyone handled it very professionally and took it very seriously.”

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