Police and fire agencies in southern San Luis Obispo County partnered with the Lucia Mar Unified School District to train for situations they hope will never happen.
They held a multi-agency training exercise at Grover Beach Elementary School on Tuesday. The goal is to enhance the collaboration between agencies if there was ever a need to respond to a call like a school shooting.
With the recent mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas still fresh in the minds of Americans, officers are reminded tragedy can strike anywhere.
"When things like this happen on the news, Texas being one of them, it impacts all of us and we look at those incidents and ask hard questions of ourselves," said Commander Bryan Millard, Grover Beach Police Department.
The first half of the training day was split into stations. Preparations started with the first on-scene — officers are trained to take control and enter an active situation even if commanders have not yet arrived.
"These kids didn’t choose to be victims in a situation such as an active shooter so our mentality is okay, how am I gonna get as many out as possible," said Officer Caleb Scherrer, Grover Beach Police Department.
One group of officers learned to utilize tactical armored rescue vehicles — a tool used to keep themselves and victims safe in an active hot zone. The next group studied drones, which are used as another set of eyes to assess a situation before officers engage. Once they’re in position, they say nothing will stand in their way.
"We're gonna stop that threat. We're not gonna wait. We're not gonna stand by. We're not gonna sit. We're gonna go in. We're gonna risk our lives to make sure that we protect the children or staff members in the school or wherever that may be," said Commander Millard.
In a close-knit community like the Central Coast, every physical exercise packs an emotional punch.
"A lot of us are parents, so a lot of this hits home for us. We might be responding to a school where our kids are actually at," explained Millard.
Every exercise culminated in a full run-through of an active shooter drill to end the day. Teams moved together mimicking the high-stress scenario.
Police and fire are planning to return to Grover Beach Elementary for another training exercise this Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022.