School participates in drill
Oasis Academy was under siege for less than an hour on Friday as the charter school participated in an active-shooter drill with both the Fallon Police Department and Churchill County Sheriff’s Office.
A lone gunman entered the building shortly after noon, firing into the first room he saw and killing two teachers. Officers from both agencies arrived to find the gunman, who had run down the hall trying to escape capture.
Eventually, one officer cornered the gunman and fatally shot him in a short, narrow hallway.
The scenario caught the staff off guard. Although the teachers were expecting a drill, they were not told it was involving an active shooter or when the time the gunman would enter the building. Fallon Police Chief Kevin Gehman said the officers also faced a similar situation by not knowing who would enter the building first to neutralize the assailant or with whom they would be teamed.
“We wanted to have a realistic drill and stagger the response,” Gehman said. “The school wanted us to organize this and help them with their active-shooter procedures. They know this is a drill but not with an active shooter.
In a real-world situation, though, Gehman said other agencies would be involved with the threat including officers from the North Central Task Force and the Nevada Highway Patrol.
Principal Melissa Mackedon said the drill went well and achieved its goals. She said the process is to make the adjustments now to the school’s drill so that a real-life situation runs smoothly.
“It was invaluable,” she said of the drill. “We are going to make some major changes based on it. We’ll make structural changes to the school and move some classroom doors to secure classrooms a little better.
Mackedon said the school has conducted several drills before without law enforcement but will do one with the students in the spring.
Dusty Casey, who served on the academy’s Board of Directors, had been an observer at several Naval Air Station Fallon drills. He knew it was important for the academy to be prepared, and the preparation for the drill needed to be precise. As a result of his observations and research, Casey initially approached the police department.
Casey said the first step involved instruction to the staff, and step two, which was Friday’s drill, included the staff responding to the shooter. He said the third step will involve the staff and selected students who receive permission from their parents to be part of the exercise.
“We’re testing our security plan and looking to improve on it,” Casey added.
Although the Friday’s scenario took two months to develop, Casey availed himself to prior training in May that involved learning about Washoe County’s emergency plan and how personnel execute it.
Mackedon, though, said the real threat would not come from a masked assailant trying to gain access to the school. Based on statistical information, she said threats may actually come from current or former students or parents, respectively.
Sheriff Ben Trotter said the drill was a good way to refresh active-shooter procedures and gave them another opportunity for inter-agency collaboration.
“It’s also good for local law enforcement to get a first-hand view of the protocols in place at the various schools,” he added.
Overall, Gehman said the communication was good from both law enforcement agencies. What makes this scenario realistic is that it can happen anywhere from schools to small businesses to a Wal-Mart.
“Who would ever know something would have happened at an IHOP on a Tuesday morning at 9,” Gehman said, referencing a shooter who entered the Carson City restaurant in September 2011 and killed four people including three members of the Nevada Army National Guard.