‘We don’t want to falter’: Iron County law enforcement holds multiagency active shooter drill

Iron County law enforcement participate in an active shooter drill, Parowan, Utah, Nov. 18, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Shauna Lund, Cedar City News | Photo courtesy of Shauna Lund, Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Some 100 law enforcement personnel from across Iron County gathered in Parowan to train for a worst-case scenario.

Law enforcement administrators participating in an incident command training at the Parowan Police Department, Parowan, Utah, Nov. 18, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Sgt Nate Williams and the Cedar City Police Department, Cedar City News

Parowan City Police Officer Jed Townsend and Cedar City Police Officer Matt Carpenter facilitated the training as part of the Iron Metro SWAT team in collaboration with the law enforcement administrator task force, Townsend said.

Both men also serve as school resource officers, he added.

On Nov. 18, approximately 100 officers from law enforcement agencies throughout Iron County ran through various scenarios at both Parowan Elementary School and Parowan High School, he said.

The day of the drill was early-out Friday and training didn’t begin until students had left for the day, he added.

The training was a “threefold mission,” Townsend said. First, they trained the officers, which was their primary goal. Then, they worked with the Iron County School District to train the teachers, school staff and district members on the family reunification process.

In the event of a critical incident, Townsend said he wanted the school and district employees to “be on the same page.” So, while officers trained at the schools, the group also conducted a drill on exiting the school before meeting at another location to discuss expectations and what family reunification would look like.

Iron County School District administrators talk through the scenario and watch the reunification process, Parowan, Utah, Nov. 18, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Shauna Lund, Cedar City News

In areas across the country where shootings occurred, Townsend said that the family reunification process was sometimes “a mess.” He hopes Iron County law enforcement will be “ahead of the game in that aspect” but warns it could be a “train wreck” regardless.

The third part of the drill was incident command training for law enforcement administrators at the Parowan City Police Department, which entailed working through a scenario beginning the moment a suspect was identified to its conclusion, Townsend said.

While the officers’ primary goal would be to “eliminate the threat,” administrators would need to process the area – as it would then be considered a crime scene – coordinate medical, fire and other responding personnel, gather resources, and make tactical decisions, among other duties, Townsend said.

The training began at approximately 1 p.m. and ended about 10:30 p.m., with officers rotating in for two-hours training periods around their regular shifts, Townsend said.

“But the facilitators, like the SWAT team, me and Matt, we were there for the whole time,” he said.

Iron County law enforcement participate in an active shooter drill, Parowan, Utah, Nov. 18, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Shauna Lund, Cedar City News | Photo courtesy of Shauna Lund, Cedar City News

The training was a “challenge,” Townsend said, but the “officers are pretty reliable and willing to work.”

“We bit off a big chunk but I think we pulled it off,” he said. “I feel pretty good about it.”

Cedar City Police chief Darin Adams concurred, saying that the training was done “extremely well.”

“We’re just passionate – all of us in Iron County – to ensure that we are well prepared and well trained to respond to an active shooter incident,” he said. “And that goes for our schools, certainly, as well as any office building or retail establishment, where many of our residents either shop or work or recreate.”

While local law enforcement hopes these scenarios do not occur, Townsend said they are “praying for the best but planning on the worst.”

“Unfortunately, in our society, we are training for that because we all should know our assignment,” he said. “In our community and in our police departments, I’m confident that we know what’s expected of us. Doing these types of trainings will help us respond to that appropriately.”

Iron County law enforcement participate in an active shooter drill, Parowan, Utah, Nov. 18, 2022 | Photo courtesy of Shauna Lund, Cedar City News

The drill was planned in increments over several months, Townsend said. He and Carpenter met regularly with administrators and the SWAT team to make a “game plan.”

SWAT team members trained officers during the drill, and Carpenter and Townsend “ran the show,” creating a schedule and handling interagency communications, Townsend said.

The last drill of this size was conducted in 2018, as they are difficult to plan due to logistical factors, including covering various jurisdictions as the training ensues, Townsend said.

Iron County’s law enforcement agencies have planned more limited drills since then, including the Iron Metro SWAT team, which does so regularly. Townsend said he hopes to continue conducting similar collaborative drills twice a year.

“If we train properly, then we will all know what we’re supposed to do,” he said. “Everyone knows their job, their assignment and moves forward. We don’t want to falter – don’t want to stumble, so that’s the beauty of the training.”

This file photo shows Iron Metro SWAT team members responding to an incident, Cedar City, Utah, June 7, 2022 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

Agencies represented at the active shooter drill, he said, included the Parowan City Police Department, the Cedar City Police Department, the Utah Highway Patrol, the Iron County Sheriff’s Office, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Beaver County Sheriff’s Office, Adult Probation and Parole and Brian Head Public Safety.

Last week, on Thursday, the Cedar City Police Department put their training into action for a brief lockdown at Cedar Middle School after a student posted a threat via social media, Cedar City News reported.

“Although the threat was treated as serious in nature, the school was never in immediate danger,” the article reads.

The investigation of the incident is ongoing.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

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