Protecting Students Through Emergency Prepardeness

by Pamela Arrington, Argyle ISD PR
as published in Cross Timbers Gazette

“A parent’s worst nightmare,” you hear that there is an active shooter at your child’s school. Unfortunately in today’s environment these tragic events seem to occur far too often. Our best defense it to be prepared. Just three weeks ago a gunman entered a nightclub in Orlando Florida killing 49 people and injuring over 50.

An active shooter situation is not always preventable, however law enforcement, fire personnel, EMS, and local agencies and organizations are able to work together to prevent the loss of life through proactive and proper training.

In a study conducted by the FBI statistics show that between the years of 2000–2013, 24.4-percent of active shooter situations took place in an educational environment. Due to the high statistics it is not surprising that school districts and local municipalities are being proactive in preparing themselves in case of a real situation.

Lieutenant Chris Muscle, The Emergency Management Coordinator for the Argyle Fire Department came up with an idea to have a preparedness drill two years ago after seeing the need. Muscle has been with the Fire Department in Argyle for the past eight years, served four years in the United States Marine Corps and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Administration. He, along with his Deputy Chief Michael Lugo, Argyle ISD Police Chief Paul Cairney, fellow firefighters, paramedics, emergency responders and volunteers from over twenty local agencies have spent the last year preparing for an active shooter training scenario. The vision that once started out as a training goal will become a reality tomorrow as everyone involved in this event work together in responding to a mock active shooter threat at Argyle High School.

Lt. Muscle stated that the objective of the exercise is to test both law enforcement and fire in response to an active shooter situation with mass casualty. This scenario will include operational coordination, on-scene security and protection, situational assessment, operational communication and public information and warning.

The event will be as close to realistic as possible to ensure effective training. There will be volunteer actors from Denton County CERT, UNT, and TWU who will play the part of the victims. Simulated ammunition, called Simunition, along with blanks will be used as well during the exercise.

Argyle’s Deputy Fire Chief Michael Lugo has been working alongside Lt. Chris Muscle in the planning of this event. He has been with the Argyle Fire Department for 14 years. Lugo is the Operations Chief, Training Chief and Fire Marshal for the Argyle Fire department. Combining his experience along with Lt. Muscles experience in the military and his background in Fire Administration, there is no doubt that the training event will be nothing short of professional and effective.

Lugo stated that some of the obstacles they will be facing in the drill will be communication with the numerous departments and agencies responding to that type of incident and working together.

“Since we have been working on this training event we have grown closer to our local police department agencies and have built a stronger working relationship,” said Lugo.

The Active Shooter Scenario Drill will take place tomorrow at Argyle High School. This drill will not only prepare Law Enforcement, Fire, EMS, and responding agencies but will allow the school district a chance to evaluate their Emergency Preparedness. The exercise will have benefits in regard to taking steps to ensure the safety of students in the case of an actual event.

“First responders will be better prepared to adequately respond to a crisis in our district,” said Dr. Telena Wright, Argyle ISD’s Superintendent. “The more prepared and better trained the responders are the safer the school can be and the quicker and more efficiently a crisis can be handled.”

Each campus in Argyle ISD has a separate crisis team. There is also a crisis team for the entire district. The purpose of these are to review drills and campus planned responses to crisis situations. There is also a safety committee that parents can report safety concerns to if they prefer to remain anonymous.

James Hill, the principal of Argyle High School said that he subscribes to the idea that you always hope for the best but plan for the worst.

“It is my prayer that we will never have to worry about this type of scenario in our community. However, I know that the safety of our children is the number one priority,” said Hill. “Knowing that our emergency responders are prepared and well trained to spring into action in case of a tragedy is comforting and re-assuring. I don’t believe that you can ever over prepare. The better emergency responders know our school, the quicker the can act.”

Hill stated that his goal for this exercise would be that all of the entities will be able to coordinate and communicate flawlessly so that, in the event of a tragedy, they can quickly meet the needs of everyone involved and minimize and hopefully prevent any casualties.

Argyle ISD Police Chief Paul Cairney stated that Argyle ISD has been visionary in protecting the schools and its students and they want to continue to improve on what they already have in place.

“This will be the first of many exercises we as a community want to continue in the future,” said Cairney.

In order to educate and inform the public about the upcoming exercise those planning the event have partnered with local media outlets as well as the School District Public Affairs office to inform the public utilizing the following outlets: Facebook, Twitter, CodeRed and official press releases. The event will be fully closed to the public.

After the exercise is over, the agencies involved will be utilizing a wide range of evaluators who have expertise in the area they are evaluating to include Chiefs with the Lewisville, Carrollton and Lake Cities fire departments. They also have emergency management partners evaluating from Little Elm Fire Department and Lewisville Fire Department. Denton County Sheriff’s office will also have evaluators. They have a specialized team of handpicked emergency room physicians and trauma surgeons to evaluate the medical aspect of the exercise along with Lewisville police and fire department members evaluating the rescue task response to an active shooter. They will also have a specialized group of evaluators from Consolidated Training Group (CTG) which is a company that specializes in many different tactical elements.

All it took was one idea. One idea and a group of driven leaders working together to help ensure the safety of the students in Argyle ISD. Tomorrow morning if you are in the Argyle area and you hear the sirens, see the emergency response vehicles passing by you on the roadway, or see the medic helicopters fly over, take a moment to stop and reflect on the work our law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel, along with all other volunteers put in to ensure the safety of our schools and communities.