With the start of school just weeks away, Splendora ISD Police Department on July 25 hosted an active shooter drill to prepare for a scenario everyone hopes will never happen.
“God forbid it would ever happen here. It’s already happened to our neighbors in Santa Fe. I pray for them every day,” said SISD Police Chief Rex Evans, who spearheaded the drill that had participation from dozens of agencies in Montgomery and Liberty counties.
Evans is in his first year as SISD PD, but has led numerous other drills in his previous role as Cleveland ISD police chief. The drill was the first of its kind for Splendora ISD and areas outside of the Conroe metro area.
“This is my seventh drill in six years. I’ve done multiple active shooter drills, one special needs bus accident and a hazardous materials spill at one of the science labs in another high school,” he said. “I take my job very seriously. I believe in what we do as an ISD police agency. Our number one job, our number one priority, is to make sure these kids are safe. If we are not training and are not practicing and doing everything we can to prepare to do that job, then we are doing a disservice to our kids and that’s unacceptable.”
The drill Wednesday began with shots fired inside Splendora High School and multiple student-actors portraying victims and a shooter. Students who survived the initial wave of terror called 9-1-1 to report the shooting and, in a real-time scenario, law enforcement officers arrived and entered the building in waves, slowly making their way down the halls as they assessed the threat and tried to locate the shooter.
As they walked through the halls and ascended the stairs to the second floor, they located “deceased victims” and those in need of medical attention, but still they walked on, not rendering aid to the victims.
Patton Village Police Chief Shannon Sharp said the mindset of the officers during an active shooter scenario is to eliminate the threat before assisting victims.
“The primary function of the officers when they get here, whether it’s a regular patrolman or a tactical team, is make sure the threat is eliminated. As long as we know there is still a threat out there, whether it’s an active shooter or whatever the situation may be, we are going to keep driving to the point where we know the threat is eliminated,” he said. “Once we have cleared a building and created a ‘warm zone,’ that’s when the medics can come in and start taking care of the injuries and making assessments.”
One of the things they learned through the collaborative effort, according to Klein ISD Police Chief David Kimberly, is that Montgomery County has a medical tactical unit that is cross-trained for these types of scenarios.
“We weren’t fully capable of their abilities before today but now we are, so we will write that into our plan,” Kimberly said. “As a general rule though, fire and EMS will enter the building when it’s secure. That’s why these trainings become more and more critical that we make sure the officer is fully trained. We know that the longer the incident goes on, the more probability there is for serious injuries to become fatal.”
The drill also tested the capabilities of local hospitals where some of the student-actors were sent to be treated for their mock injuries. It also highlighted some weaknesses in their plan that Evans said will be addressed in the coming weeks before the start of school.
“Obviously we found some issues that we want to correct and do better in, and that’s what these are for — to measure where we are at and advance to a higher stage,” he said.
Evans said Splendora ISD’s trustees and administrators are also taking other security suggestions into consideration, such as keyless entry systems and enhancement to the doors and video surveillance systems.
“We also have the door Bearacades to be deployed in every classroom. We are looking at some other measures but those are the ones right off,” he said. “You are talking about a quarter- to a half-million dollars and that’s a lot of money for a small school district. I have to applaud the school board and superintendent, and everyone else here. They are willing to move that money to make these kids safe.”
Even with the training and extra security measures, the reality is disaster can strike anywhere.
“Number one, this can happen anywhere,” said Chief Sharp. “Number two, [these officers] have the skills and the confidence so they can respond to something like this. This is as close as it gets to the real thing.”
Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org