A team of RCMP officers come around the corner of Revelstoke Secondary School — four of them with their guns drawn.
It’s a very rare sight — the first time I’ve seen an officer with their gun drawn in five years in Revelstoke.
There was reports of a shooting, and as the members on duty at the time, they were first on scene.
They cautiously approach the rear entrance of the school before going inside.
Meanwhile, more RCMP resources are being called in from elsewhere throughout southeastern B.C. — the emergency response team, a negotiating unit, police dogs, communications people and more. All told, 65 RCMP personnel are deployed to respond to the situation at the school.
This was all for training for the worst possible scenario — a shooting at a school filled with students similar to what happened in Columbine
“This was an opportunity for us to try out our safe-school plan,” said Staff-Sgt. Kurt Grabinksy of the Revelstoke RCMP. “It’s a plan created by the division to create a template to how we perform based on incidents that have happened elsewhere.”
Sgt. Kim Hall put together the scenario and the Revelstoke School District made the high school available to the RCMP. Local volunteers played the role of victims, while auxiliary constables acted as the shooters.
The RCMP made use of floor plans, photos and other information it has on the school to respond to the incident.
“The school was the perfect training ground for it because for us, it’s where we police,” said Grabinsky. “It wasn’t some false environment with a fake wall put up.”
The response began at 8:30 a.m. with the call to 9-1-1 of shots being fired in the school. The members on duty attended the scene while support crews assembled elsewhere and drove to Revelstoke. To make things realistic, they left from their home bases and had to drive along the highways to get here, arriving at around 11 a.m. For safety purposes, they didn’t use lights or sirens.
PHOTO: An RCMP officer can be seen with his gun drawn inside Revelstoke Secondary School during a training exercise on Wednesday.
Throughout the day, the response could be heard playing out over the scanners. There was a constant back-and-forth between dispatch and the police on the ground. There were two shooters in the school — one of whom had taken hostages. While local RCMP handled the first shooter, the emergency response team was brought into deal with the hostage taker.
The dispatcher constantly relayed information from a witness holed up in an office.
“We were training for a similar situation to Columbine, to Taber. Those situations of gun shots fired and 9-1-1 calls coming from the school,” said Grabinsky. “We know the scenario would have played out differently with 200 to 300 kids in the school, with half of them having cell phones.”
The fire department, BC Ambulance and Queen Victoria Hospital also took part in the exercise.
Grabinsky declined to discuss the tactics that were used. “I will not discuss the tactics because of concern that will provide information to the public of what those tactics will be,” he said.
Afterwards, everyone involved took part in a debriefing. There was one for local members and another including the special units that were deployed. “We’ve been debriefing along the way with our upper management and reviewing our plan,” said Grabinsky.
He said the scenario went very well and they were happy with the overall success of the training exercise. “We learned a lot of things we would correct,” he said. “Other things went very smoothly and exactly how we would like them to do.”
He said he was very happy with the work of the local constables in how they responded. “They operated in excess of what I expected them to do. They were committed, they were fearless in terms of their response, and they achieved every goal we could have.”