School safety drill in Berkeley County brings together educators, first responders

INWOOD, W.Va. – More than 100 school employees, law enforcement and first responders in the Eastern Panhandle are better prepared to respond to emergency calls.

Berkeley County Sheriff Nathan Harmon and Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Ron Stephens spoke after a school safety drill Thursday in South Berkeley County.

An event was held at Musselman High School in Inwood last Thursday in what organizers called a “first of its kind full scale Emergency Preparedness Exercise.”

It was an effort among multiple law enforcement agencies, Berkeley County Schools, fire and emergency medical service, according to Berkeley County Sheriff Nathan Harmon, who said units from both the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Maryland and the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia were among the agencies responding.

“Proud to say that Berkeley County, for the first time ever, has done a full-scale exercise involving all the key stake holders.  You had individuals from Washington County, Frederick County (Virginia,) agencies across state lines, agencies within this Eastern Panhandle and on top of that, you had the entire school administration that participated and came together,” Harmon said.

Harmon said a multi-jurisdictional response would be key should a school emergency occur in the future. He said drills like Thursday’s allow responders coming from various agencies in the region to “be on the same page.”

“I don’t know if that’s ever been done before,” he said.

Berkeley County Schools Superintendent Ron Stephens said the training “really gets your adrenaline pumping, makes you think about it.”

Stephens said he’s aware they won’t be able to practice every conceivable scenario, but the most valuable takeaway is the thought process that it takes to get through the exercises.

“I’m very confident that today’s exercises have helped prepare us more for emergencies in the future,” he said.

Berkeley County 911 Call Center’s Jennifer Swisher said their department took advantage of the exercise to practice in a way they normally can’t.

“We also simulated 911 calls. We got to, continuously, throughout the day, practice,” she said, which she added, her department doesn’t always get a chance to do.

In post-exercise remarks, Harmon said “We pray to God we never have to use this,” he said, adding that after the day’s exercises, which included active shooter drills, gave participants “a lot more confidence.”

School administrators took part as role players in the various scenarios.

The 8-hour drill day took place at Mill Creek Intermediate and Musselman High School with staging at Musselman Middle School.

Part of the day, according to a press release from the Berkeley County Sheriff’s office, involved teaching educators in a class-room environment strategies from the BECON Emergency Preparedness program to better protect themselves and their students from armed intruders.

The Panhandle News Network’s Luke Wiggs contributed to this article.

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