ORANGE PARK – A catastrophic event can sometimes lead to positive change.
After the February 14 shooting in Parkland, schools and first responders across the state took stock of their own communities and are now trying to create change that would prevent a similar event from happening again.
Last Thursday at Ridgeview High, representatives from various agencies throughout Clay County met for an active shooter tabletop discussion. This was not a simulation where school administrators sat in a gym and watched via monitors a drill unfold. The June 21 event was simply a conversation between every line of defense the schools have in preventing or stopping a shooter.
“In the past, the administrators of various schools would be at those type of [simulation] exercises, kind of witnessing and observing what was going on,” said Clay County Sheriff’s Office information officer Keith Smith. “What we tried to cover today was that first initial eight hours of when the incident takes place, during those initial critical hours of locking down the school, getting it back to where the kids are getting out of the school, reuniting them with their parents, and then the coordination with us, the Clay County School Board, with their public information officer Nicole Snyder and just working together from there.”
Smith explained that, though everyone from the schools to law enforcement, fire and rescue and county emergency staff have a general idea of what to do, it’s beneficial to ensure that everyone is in sync.
“We’re familiar with what each others’ policies and procedures are,” he said, “We just wanted to make sure that all the administrators are doing the same thing, that Wilkinson Junior High is doing it the same way as Coppergate Elementary, and identifying who’s going to be doing what. Because after it happens, it’s too late. That’s what we’re ultimately going to be doing – providing that unified command and making sure we’re all working together.”
Smith said that several questions had been brought up that might take some additional thought and preparation. Any unanswered questions will not have to wait until next summer. For example, he said he has talked with School Superintendent Addison Davis and the two agreed that there should be updates throughout the school year where everyone comes back together on a weekend or after school to make sure the awareness remains top-of-mind.
“We are all extremely busy in our jobs and our work, but we have to carve out time such as this in order to protect our greatest assets, which is our students along with our employees,” said Davis, who played a key role in the event.
“We wanted to make sure that we had all major players in the same room to have discussions about an unfortunate situation if ever exposed to it. This allows us to have a heightened awareness and allows us to have a deeper conversation about how we address issues within our schools and within our community,” Davis said.
After the training, representatives from the Florida Health Department, through local sponsorship from the Northeast Florida Healthcare Coalition, provided “Stop the Bleed” kits for each Clay County school at the event and provided training to schools on how to use the first aid items in the kits.
According to the Department of Homeland Security, “Stop the Bleed” is a national awareness campaign to cultivate grassroots efforts that encourage bystanders to become trained, equipped, and empowered to help in a bleeding emergency while waiting for fire and rescue to arrive.