HANCOCK COUNTY — All Hancock County public employees will soon receive training to learn how to react during an active-shooter crisis.
On the heels of a string of mass shootings across the U.S., Hancock County Sheriff Mike Shepherd received several requests from county workers seeking guidance on how to prepare for similar attacks.
This week, the Hancock County Board of Commissioners gave Shepherd the go-ahead to develop a training program for county employees — more than 300 in all. Shepherd said he plans to unveil a training program in mid-February that will provide hands-on instruction to participants. He hopes to complete training by March.
The program will be the first of its kind locally, Shepherd said. Details are still in development, but he plans to lead employees through two phases of training.
The first presentation will detail the most effective ways to react to an emergency before law enforcement arrives.
The next phase will guide employees through scenarios designed specifically for each office, taking into account the number of entries and exits.
Together, both components will establish exit strategies for employees to follow during a threat, Shepherd said.
Training will be staggered to allow employees some flexibility in scheduling, Shepherd said.
After the armed attack on county employees in San Bernardino, California, last December that left 14 dead and dozens injured, Hancock County Assessor Mary Noe said she’s seen a need for a formalized training program.
Noe said she occasionally encounters residents who are upset with an assessment issued by her office. From time to time, those situations have escalated into threats, she said.
Noe wants to take every precaution to prepare herself and the 12 employees in her office, she said.
“It can happen anywhere,” Noe said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, people probably just need to vent; it’s the 1 percent that I worry about.”
Shepherd hopes to extend the program to provide free training to residents at private organizations and businesses throughout the community, including churches and schools.
Brad Armstrong, president of the Hancock County Board of Commissioners, said that, before this year, he’s unsure he would have seen the need for the program. Now, it’s a logical precaution, he said.
“It’s something that 10 years ago, you probably would’ve thought you’re being overly cautious to have something like this,” Armstrong said. “But with the events we’ve seen in the past several months, that’s just not the case anymore.”