By LIBBY CLUETT
Don’t be alarmed by the alarms Tuesday morning.
While it may appear as the entire city and county first responders are all speeding to Mineral Wells High School – and they will be – it won’t be an actual emergency, just a drill.
As part of its ongoing emergency preparedness efforts, the Mineral Wells Police and Palo Pinto County Sheriff’s Departments, along with the Mineral Wells Independent School District, are partnering in an emergency preparedness exercise to evaluate emergency response and operations plans in a simulated active shooter incident, somewhat similar to the December tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
According to MWPD Chief Dean Sullivan, the exercise, which takes place 8-11:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, will involve many of the resources that would be present in the event of an actual emergency, including a variety of first responders and support personnel.
As would be expected in the event of an actual emergency, there will be emergency vehicles responding with lights and sirens, search-and-rescue activities, along with disaster trauma/triage medical operations.
Sullivan wants citizens to understand that this is “only a drill” and said he may even put out a Code Red alert to remind people of the drill, so they are not alarmed.
“In light of the tragedies that have impacted other areas, including in our own state – in West, Texas – we feel it is appropriate to continue our ongoing preparedness efforts, examining existing operational response plans as well as evolving amendments to those plans where necessary,” said the MWPD chief.
He added that Tuesday’s drill will help those participating in the exercise see “how to move forward the best we can.”
“Preparedness is a continual endeavor, since you never know when and where one of these disasters will occur,” Sullivan explained. “Just like in our schools, they hold fire drills and tornado drills. This, too, working in partnership with the school and first responders, this is a drill to assess our operations and to improve them.”
“This will be styled after what would we do if an active shooter attacked one of our campuses,” he added. “We’ve been planning for this the past two-and-a-half to three months.”
While the Sandy Hook massacre and Boston Marathon bombing certainly raised awareness, Sullivan noted this drill came to the forefront “when the West, Texas, disaster occurred. The focus is on, ‘Where are we now?’”
While future exercises could involve more area entities, the chief said this exercise will be a “scaled emergency response” to an active shooter incident at the Mineral Wells High School, utilizing National Incident Management System model and existing response plans.
Sullivan explained that a safety zone is being established to prevent by-standers from inadvertently becoming involved in the exercise. He said immediate access and traffic to the site will be detoured at S.E. Industrial Parkway at Ram Boulevard.
Again, he wants to remind all citizens “this is only a drill.”