Orange County issues statement on deadly school shooting in Florida

Sheriff's Office as well as New York State Police offer free active shooter response training

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— Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus, District Attorney David Hoovler, and Sheriff Carl E. DuBois released a joint statement on Thursday about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, yesterday that left at least 17 people dead and several others wounded.

“The senseless shooting in the state of Florida yesterday has left us shocked and saddened,” Neuhaus, Hoovler and DuBois said. “The thoughts and prayers of Orange County residents are with the victims and their families. As we reflect on this tragic and senseless act of violence, we think it’s important that Orange County residents are aware of the steps that we take to protect them.”

Both the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the New York State Police provide free training to schools, businesses, churches and other organizations with free active shooter response training.

Orange County Sheriff’s OfficeAssistant Undersheriff Anthony Weed said his office works with churches, school districts and local businesses.

“Our Special Operations team will come out and do a site security assessment, provide active shooter response training or assist them with their drills or assist with their emergency planning,” Weed said. “We won’t write their emergency planning. We will review and make recommendations. We’ll give them a template on how to do it. It’s all free of charge.

“We also do threat assessment and site security assessments and we’ll walk through with the administrators of the schools and talk about different things that they can do to strengthen their security in their schools, whether it’s just locking doors, increasing cameras, different protocols, setting up emergency medical kits in multiple areas and staging locations where mass amount of people could be gathered, what we call casualty collection points,” the undersheriff said.

State PoliceTrooper Steven Nevel, spokesman for the New York State Police also noted that every troop in the state police has a school community outreach coordinator.

“Mainly what we do is we teach staff how to respond to an active shooter,” Nevel said. “We practice numerous lockdown and lockout drills throughout the year. We give presentations mainly to the staff, teachers, school administrators on how to respond to an active shooter and what to expect when law enforcement does arrive. So any school district that is looking for that, we do give that.

“The main thing is we want the schools, the superintendents to know that there is an outlet, that we do teach,” he added. “And a lot of them think that it costs. It does not cost. And I know that schools will hire a security firm that will charge them an astronomical amount of money to teach them what to do. We’re not looking for money, we’re looking to keep everyone safe.”

Training is catered to every different school, and state police go over the safety procedures that the schools are required to submit to Albany.

“We go to the school and we have a checklist of basic things that we walk through and look for,” Nevel said. “Are the doors locked? What if there’s a shooter in this area? What if it’s a lunch time? For elementary schools, what if it happens when students are on the playground?

“Some people are looking for the 100 percent answer,” he added. “What we do is we give a basic foundation for teachers and staff to follow.

“If you have a school shooting, no matter the amount of training that you do, it’s organized chaos,” the trooper said. “It’s easy to tell a class, when there’s shooting, we want you to be calm, because we do need you to be calm. Elementary schools are somewhat different because, elementary school students, they turn immediately and look at that teacher. They’re like little ducks and wherever that teacher tells them to go, that’s what they’re going to do. High schools are different. They’re more likely to run out of the building. With the Florida shooting, they are still trying to find some students that are missing.”

If a school is planning a lockdown drill, Nevel said that the state police will send troopers who are knowledgeable in these drills, “who can say you did this right, you did this wrong, you can do this better. We’re not there to beat them up.”

- Erika Norton

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