By Kristi Reed
For the past few weeks, personnel from the Gwinnett Fire and Police departments have been preparing for a situation all involved hope will never happen.
Tragic events such as the Sandy Hook and Columbine school shootings have forced public safety personnel to rethink tactics for dealing with a situation involving a person or persons actively inflicting harm upon others. In the past, GCPD officers have trained to deal with an "active shooter" in small teams, now officers are training to immediately enter a facility and confront the perpetrator or perpetrators to stop the threat as quickly as possible to minimize casualties.
"Essentially now, the first officer that gets here goes in," said Gwinnett County Police Department Public Information Officer Cpl. Jake Smith. "The officers are going in to end the threat as quickly as they possibly can."
Smith emphasized the training, which will take place at Mill Creek High School throughout the summer, is focused on speed. Officers are training not only to immediately enter the building to address an active shooter, but also practicing escorting paramedics inside to help the wounded as quickly as possible. Previously, fire personnel have waited until a scene was secure before beginning treatment and evacuation of the wounded.
"It may mean the threat is not isolated or the threat is not eliminated, but we're going in under escort," explained Capt. Tommy Rutledge, Gwinnett County Fire and Emergency Services Public Information Officer.
Time, Rutledge said, is critical -- referring to the "golden hour" in which medical treatment is most likely to prevent death.
"We're trying to make sure we do everything we can do to get that victim -- that patient -- the greatest possible outcome," he said.
"This is just an example of how well public safety works together in Gwinnett County to make sure our citizens from youngest to oldest are safe in any environment," Rutledge added.
Sloan Roach, Executive Director of Communication and Media Relations for Gwinnett County Public Schools, said the drill was a very important one for the school system.
"While we hope we never have to use this information the police and fire departments are leaning today, it is very helpful to all of us to know as partners ... how we would respond and how we would communicate should something ever happen," she explained. "It's important for us all to be ready."
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