COLUMBUS — Law enforcement and emergency responders are prepping for a scenario that has become all too real at some schools and college campuses.
It is a situation those involved hope they never come across, but an active-shooter drill at Central Community College-Columbus next month will provide a measuring stick to how prepared local responders are for such a crisis.
For the past year, CCC-Columbus has been working with several agencies to put on the drill that will take place on campus next month. The drill will center on gun violence in the dorms during a domestic violence incident.
This will be the first active-shooter drill at the college. Similar exercises are planned for CCC campuses in Hastings and Grand Island.
“It is a good opportunity to not only become more prepared ourselves, but to provide the cooperative experience with our partners that would be responding in that kind of a situation,” said Matt Gotschall, campus president.
The college has held a tabletop active-shooter drill and practices for other emergency situations such as tornadoes, but nothing of this magnitude. This full-scale event will incorporate several agencies including the Platte County Sheriff’s Office, Columbus Police Department and Nebraska State Patrol, as well as Columbus Community Hospital, which will be taking those “injured” during the drill.
The drill will be held when the college has spring break, so there won’t be a campus full of students. Students from the college's drama department have volunteered to play the role of victims.
Sheriff Jon Zavadil said his deputies have taken part in similar exercises in Osceola and at the courthouse. He said the drills are important.
“There is so much of it going on anymore that we have to be prepared as much as we can be,” he said.
Incidences of gun violence in schools have sparked educational institutions to incorporate stricter security measures. After the Virginia Tech school shooting in 2007 that killed more than 30 people, institutions of higher learning were required by law to have an official emergency plan and annual drill to evaluate emergency response.
After the drill, those involved will have a debriefing to look at ways to improve their response.
Lenore Koliha, director of environmental health and safety at the college, said the drill will be good practice for everyone, including the campus emergency response team.
“We are kind of like a mall in that we have people coming and going all the time, day and night. We want to be prepared as first responders to these people and give them the best possible emergency response we can,” she said.
There haven't been any incidences of gun violence at the campus. Despite that, Koliha said the drill is important, similar to practice for inclement weather.
"You hope a tornado never comes, but you better be prepared," she said.