The Ohio County Sheriff's Department Special Response Team swarmed St. Vincent de Paul Parish School on Friday armed to the teeth, will full knowledge that they would not find a single threat inside the building.
Students and teachers were out of the building due to the Easter holiday, so Friday was a field training exercise for the 10-man Special Response Team - an opportunity to put a plan into action without the threat of danger.
Sheriff's Lt. and SRT Commander Matt Moore said recent school shootings, including the one at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., have prompted the sheriff's department and Ohio County schools to begin a dialogue about school safety and preparedness.
Photo By Tyler Reynard
Ohio County sheriff’s Deputy Kent Lewis helps Sgt. Doug Ernest secure his ballistic vest prior to a Special Response Team training exercise Friday at St. Vincent de Paul Parish School.
Following Moore's conversation with the elementary school, administrators extended the team of deputies the opportunity to train in the building.
Moore said Friday's exercise was invaluable because it familiarized the team with the layout of the school.
"I think after Connecticut, everybody reevaluated their safety measures," said Libby Reasbeck, school advancement director.
The school notified parents of Friday's exercise, as well as nearby residents, so as to not alarm anyone, Reasbeck noted.
The deputies, who were dressed in camouflage fatigues and black combat boots, spent much of the morning familiarizing themselves with the building.
After re-emerging, they prepared their gear - pistol strapped around the thigh, bulletproof vest draped over the torso, buckled chin straps on helmets and rifle in hand.
Moore said Friday's training session focused on securing certain areas of the building, particularly hallways and stairwells.
There were no role players impersonating intruders or injured people that needed to be evacuated.
Ohio County Emergency Management Agency Director Lou Vargo said there is a response plan in place for every school in the county.
\Training sessions like Friday's, however, allow officials to adapt those plans for an optimal outcome.
The SRT trains monthly, Moore said, and have conducted similar exercises at Wheeling Park High School and West Liberty University.