Fulton County schools now have a comprehensive plan of action in the event of a school shooting on their campuses.
Fulton County Sheriff Walter Dillinger and Fulton County Chief Investigator Tom Hanselman are spearheading a new county wide policy to maximize the efficiency of school active shooter response.
"This is an active shooter policy and it would be for situations like what happened in Columbine or such as the shooter situation at Illinois State University recently," Hanselman said.
"An active shooter is defined as a person with only one thing on their mind, not robbery or burglary, just killing children in schools. We sat down with all the schools in Fulton County and we now have a policy for the Fulton County Sheriff's Office which was written by the sheriff and I, along with several sheriff's deputies. We will be implementing the policy into all county schools," he said.
According to Hanselman the policy will be the same throughout the county. Authorities have gathered floor plans for each school to include satellite sky maps of each campus.
A training class was held at Black River Technical College in Pocahontas to teach techniques and procedures for this new plan.
"After we attended the class there were some deputies that had not attended at this point. Until they get a chance to attend, we have given them our materials and sat down with them and studied. So everyone is here teaching and sharing information," Hanselman said.
"We have a plan for each individual school's campus. The schools have been extremely cooperative with us. They have given us their current emergency evacuation process and with the sky maps we can individually make predetermined areas of operation for this type of incident. We are all sharing information and everyone will know the plan from the school people, fire departments, first responders, to the reserve deputies. If an incident occurs they will each have a manual made for each school's campus. Each school will have a staging area for the fire departments, a staging area for EMS, and an area for media and parents," Hanselman said.
"We hope it never happens but if it does at least we will have a plan everyone can follow. For example, if the dispatcher receives a call from a school that says there is a person in the lunchroom firing a weapon, she will automatically pull out a manual; everything will be spelled out step by step with a list of who she immediately contacts," he said.
"All counties in the surrounding area will be aware of what is going on as well as all mutual aid agencies. The dispatcher will contact the electric company, the gas company, city services, county services, county road crews so they can use barricades to block traffic into the area. Because of the sky maps we will know which roads to close to anyone but law enforcement and aid services," Hanselman said.
The plan is detailed down to the first three officers, whether it be Dillinger, a deputy and Hanselman or three reserve officers, all will have specific duties when they arrive on the scene, according to Hanselman.
"From the late 1980s every active shooter situation in a school has been examined, analyzed and evaluated. It has been determined that the most important thing is immediate entry into the school. That is why the first three responders go in. We have line drawings that layout the exact floor plan for that situation. Instead of using navigational points like the southwest side of the building, the sides will be numbered. So if someone gets out there and gets turned around where they don't know northwest from southeast, they will know this is building two -- side two. Every window is numbered, even down to which windows have bars or unbreakable plexiglass," Hanselman said.
"Each officer's package will have a quick reference map. There are steps for after the initial search where the bad guy is either cornered or captured; then the second phase comes in and does a very, very thorough search, including ceilings and closets for example," Hanselman said. "The sheriff has made sure Fulton County is ready."
Fulton County Sheriff Walter Dillinger has worked in partnership with all levels of the various departments to set the new plan in place.
"You never know," Dillinger said. "If something like this ever happens we will be prepared. Response time is so important, we just have to get in there. So many times when this happens people don't go in. The quicker we can get in and get the bad guy, the more lives we can save," Dillinger said.