First responders from the Berea Police Department, Berea Fire Department, and Madison County EMS participated in an intense exercise Monday, simulating scenarios in which a gunman invades a local school. The Active Attack Coordinated Response Course took place in the east wing of Madison Southern High School.

The exercise gave first responders a chance to know what to expect and how to work together should that unthinkable scenario unfold in Berea, said Berea Police Department Chief David Gregory.

“This is very important for our community, especially the chance to practice with multiple agencies, such as our fire department, our EMS, and working with the school system,” Gregory said. “It’s very crucial that we all work together and communicate to insure the safety of our kids.”

Gregory noted this was perhaps the first coordinated tactical training he can recall occurring among the various departments, but he said the need for the exercise is evident, given the number of school shooting incidents around the country.

“I think there have been 242 incidents since 2011,” Gregory said. “It’s just the age we live in and we need to be prepared for it. It’s unfortunate, but it’s something we need to be trained for.”

In addition to training for apprehending and/or neutralizing a suspected gunman, first responders then practiced how they would attend to wounded victims. Once police officers secured the scene, firefighters and paramedics then moved to attend to victims, either treating them on the scene, or quickly transporting them to a safe location.

“Our main role is getting them to a safe area and getting them out,” said Berea Fire Department Battalion Chief Scott Adams. “We don’t go in until the suspect has been detained.”

When Monday’s active shooter exercise was finished, Officer Cody Shepherd, who is also the school officer at Berea Community School, said practicing a coordinated response to a possible shooting is a key part of a minimizing injuries and fatalities, and ultimately in being more effective in protecting  Berea’s students and school employees.

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