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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Santa Fe Community College trains for shooter

Firefighters lifted people on stretchers as SFCC students wondered what had happened on campus.

But it was all for their safety.

SFCC held a tactical exercise Tuesday and Wednesday that included an "active school shooter" and mass casualties. An active school shooter is someone who aggressively shoots others instead of holding a hostage.

Several local agencies, including Gainesville Police Department, University Police Department and Alachua County Fire Rescue, took part in the exercise.

Each exercise consisted of the officers arresting the shooter and securing the building so they could start to assist the wounded.

SFCC Police Department Sgt. David Jenkins said that after each exercise, they would discuss the positives and negatives of their roles in the exercise. The situation was changed afterward each time to make it more difficult.

SFCC Police Department Chief Daryl Johnston said the P building of SFCC's Northwest Campus was picked due to its unique layout. The unique shape makes it difficult to peer around corners or see a significant distance away, he said.

When the SFCC Police Department approached other law enforcement agencies in the area to ask for one or two people to participate, the agencies thought it would be a good time to come out and work together with SFCC, he said.

"We only asked for one person, and this turned into an incredibly cooperative exercise," Johnston said.

The UPD supplied the aggressor role-players while the GPD supplied the safety officers.

AFR also participated by assessing the condition of the victims after the officers secured the building.

SFCC Police Academy recruits acted as the victims by substituting corn syrup with red food coloring for blood. They placed themselves all over the building while dramatizing their injuries with screaming.

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"Each one had a card on them indicating their heart rate, blood pressure and vital signs, and the Fire Rescue had to make a medical assessment on each body in the building," Johnston said.

There were two groups of officers that completed the exercise four times each, Jenkins said.

These two groups combined comprised five SFCC officers and one UPD officer.

In the State of the College meeting Wednesday, the president of SFCC, Jackson Sasser, addressed the issue of the safety of students and faculty.

After the Virginia Tech tragedy, SFCC found it was well prepared to assess a similar situation in every way except for the issue of communication, Sasser said.

He said SFCC has installed a system of sirens to alert students of possible danger.

"Someone might be on the soccer field and not get a message by phone. If they heard the old fashion sirens, they will know to go and check their e-mail to see what is going on," he said.

Alligator photographer Andrew Stanfill contributed to this report.

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