Officials pleased with active shooter drill

Simulation capped 3-part training series

Contributed Photo Participants in a mock shooting drill evacuate Olga Brener Intermediate School while carrying out the injured Wednesday.

Shortly before noon Wednesday, officials gathered for a mock news conference at Shawano City Hall to give initial and limited information on a shooting incident at a city school.

The press briefing, as was the incident, was a simulation of how authorities expected to respond in the event of an active shooter situation.

It was decided before the mock press conference that no questions would be taken or answered.

Shawano Police Chief Mark Kohl read a statement informing the public that a call was received of “shots fired” at Olga Brener Intermediate School at 8:50 a.m.

He went on to say that two people were confirmed dead, including the shooter, though he also said that police did not fire any shots during the incident. He said the public was no longer in any danger.

Shawano School District Superintendent Gary Cumberland said the school had been placed in a lockdown, which had since been lifted and that bus transportation would go on as normal at the end of the school day.

City Clerk Karla Duchac — playing the role of Mayor Jeanne Cronce — offered her condolences.

No other information was provided, though Kohl promised another news conference later in the afternoon.

A mock reporter shouted a question to Kohl as they left, but the question was ignored.

The news conference was just one aspect of what authorities were preparing for Wednesday, but hoping they will never have to deal with in real life.

Wednesday’s drill was the culmination of efforts that began in December with table-top exercises, then graduated in April to “functional exercises” at each of the locations involved, before becoming the full-scale episode to which authorities responded.

Cumberland said Wednesday’s exercise was “a learning experience,” which added to some things already learned during the previous limited exercises, mostly dealing with the school’s part in reuniting students with their parents once evacuation has taken place.

He said initial scenarios had students congregating at Zion Lutheran Church until it was realized the location was still too close to the perimeter of the incident. Hope Community Church was later adopted as the reunification point for students and their parents.

Also, Cumberland said, it was felt that someone not too closely involved with the students should oversee the reunification, because of the possible emotions that could come into play. The original intent was that the school principal should oversee the process.

Some 350 people were involved in Wednesday’s exercise in one form or another.

Sites used included Shawano Community High School, Olga Brener Intermediate School, City Hall, Zion Lutheran Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Hope Community Church.

Agencies involved in the response included Shawano police, Shawano County sheriff’s deputies, Stockbridge-Munsee police, Shawano County Health Department and Department of Human Services, Shawano Ambulance Service, city officials and Shawano Department of Public Works, and the Shawano School District.

“Overall, the full-scale active shooter exercise went very well,” said Natalie Easterday, Shawano County emergency management director.

“We had tremendous participation from key organizations, and every agency identified both strengths and areas of improvement that they will be working on as a follow-up to the event,” she said.

“Lastly, as the capstone to a three-part exercise series, we saw continued improvement from where we were at in December 2015 at the tabletop exercise and even changes since the April functional exercise based on lessons organizations learned,” Easterday said.