An active shooter drill will be staged Thursday at MSA-West on the initiative, direction and lead of the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office and a multitude of agencies who would normally be involved in such a dangerous situation.
“We’re going to do a full-scale active shooter drill,” Stassi said. “Volunteer children will act as victims and we’re going to take them all the way to the hospital. We’re going to make this as realistic as possible.”
Unlike some areas that are reacting to the 22 school shootings so far this year by trying to get every school in a parish or county to have an armed law enforcement officer on each school ground, the Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Office “is ahead of the game,” the sheriff said. “We’ve had SROs (school resource officers) in every public school in the parish for a long time.
Stassi also said the Sheriff’s Office has long since been preparing for the possibility of an active shooter at a local school and regularly runs drills to prepare his officers for that happening in Iberville Parish.
“We have continued to practice for the possibility of a live shooter,” Sheriff Brett Stassi, who said the drill is a continuation of his agency’s continued proactive preparation for the possibility of an active shooter in one of the parish’s schools.
“We continue to practice,” he said. “We had two practice drills at Iberville Elementary School and Plaquemine High School two weeks ago where we walked in and told them to go on lockdown.”
With observers in attendance, deputies found doors unlocked, others that were propped open with chairs to prevent them from closing, Stassi said.
“We used a different scenario at Plaquemine High and we pulled the fire alarm,” he said. “Students were exiting from anywhere they could and then couldn’t get back into the building afterward. Had it been an active shooter situation, that could have been tragic.”
In addition to the Sheriff’s Office, participants in Thursday’s drill will include the Plaquemine Fire Department, Acadian Ambulance, Oschner Medical Center, the Iberville Parish School Board and the City of Plaquemine, including its Police Department.
“During this incident, we’re going to set up a command center, we’ll have the media here, we’ll have observers on hand and we’re going to go through each and every scenario possible,” Stassi said.
At Oschner Medical Center, personnel there will be expecting the arrival of students acting as injury victims, both through the emergency entrance and, weather permitting, via the helipad, by a helicopter provided by Acadian Ambulance, he continued.
“We’re going to make it as real as possible,” Stassi said, including having makeup artists on hand to make the injured volunteers appear to actually be bloodied and law enforcement will be using blanks and simulator weapons to add to the realism.
“You can’t ever be totally prepared, but we have to keep practicing,” Stassi said. “We’re working to make it better.”
Afterward, the agencies will meet and go over the results and evaluate the responses, making adjustments to the plans as needed to make this as effective a drill as possible, he said.
One of the facets of an active shooter scenario he said deputies and others involved in the drill will be working on is keeping the roads open, which are often blocked by parents trying to retrieve students and law enforcement.
“We’re going to do our best to keep lanes of traffic open,” Stassi said. “We’re going to be working on best practices based on what we’ve learned through previous situations.”
"We're going to do everything we can to make this as real as possible so we can be prepared as we possibly can be and then pray it never happens," he said.