One step closer to prepared

Two Sunnyside High School staff members evacuate campus during the training drill.

Photo by Jennie McGhan
Two Sunnyside High School staff members evacuate campus during the training drill.


Law enforcement officers gather at a command center across the street from the high school.

— SUNNYSIDE — First responders and School District staff are closer to the goal of being prepared in the event of an active shooter scenario.

That’s thanks to the June 14 active shooter training at Sunnyside High School.

Law enforcement from several agencies staged the training with Sunnyside firefighters, paramedics, staff and students.

Involved were Sunnyside, Othello, Mabton and Zillah police officers, as well as deputies from the Yakima County Sheriff’s Office, Washington State Patrol troopers and officials with the Yakima County Office of Emergency Management.

The responders and actors were put through their paces for two hours of training. There was more than one scenario, the first involving a male and a female shooter entering the library at the school.

Sunnyside School Resource Officer Erica Rollinger could be heard over the radio, alerting the Police Department she spotted an individual with a gun on campus.

That initiated a lockdown of the school just prior to her report of shots fired.

A while later, a group of students was seen evacuating the school.

Rollinger was on the radio again, alerting responding officers two shooters, a male and a female, were inside the library, which is at the center of campus.

School District official Heidi Hellner-Gomez, who was stationed across the street at a command tent, said the scenario involved the shooters entering the library through one of its several entry points — one that was “accidentally” left open.

“The challenge is figuring out how to get firefighters and paramedics inside the library safely,” she said during one of two time-outs.

Sunnyside Police Cmdr. Bailey said first responders anticipated mistakes and made accommodations for them to better assess the training scenario.

Once given the okay, rescue personnel were able to gain entry to remove those wounded by the shooters.

Actively participating from the Sunnyside Police Department in the training were more than 12 police officers, including patrol officers, command staff and dispatch, Bailey said.

The additional officers were welcome because in a real-life situation, most agencies don’t have the manpower to handle a school shooting, he said.

“This opens up a lot of communication points, especially with the fire department because we don’t work hand-in-hand regularly,” Bailey said.

In a real-life situation, he said additional personnel from different agencies from as far as the Tri-Cities to Ellensburg and Moses Lake might respond to provide support.

That is important because officers still must clear a building following an active shooter situation.

“We have to do it methodically and that can exhaust your manpower,” Bailey said.

As a result, he said it makes sense for the Othello Police to take part in the training.

Othello Police Chief Phil Schenck said the training is valuable to his department for its community, as well.

“Every bit of training and every way we look at different scenarios benefits us,” he said.

Taking part in the training were a school resource officer, sergeant, school safety officer and Schenck.

“A lot of lessons were learned here today,” he said after the training was finished.


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