"It's helpful for us to learn how to stay calm and listen, and I think it's something we should do again so we can stay up-to-date."
On Friday, McPherson County law enforcement and Canton-Galva High School teamed up to practice how to respond to an active shooter.
The training was first proposed by Celey Johnson and Alexa Burch, students in the school's Family, Career and Community Leaders of America chapter as a leadership project. School staff and leaders agreed to the training, and the McPherson County Sheriffs Office arranged a day to rehearse how to respond if an armed attacker were to open fire on campus.
"We really hadn't done anything like this, and people need to know what to do if it happens," Burch said. "It's helpful for us to learn how to stay calm and listen, and I think it's something we should do again so we can stay up-to-date."
The sheriffs office didn't tell the school what time the training would take place, so that students and staff would have to react on the fly while emergency responders took action. Law enforcement, including county deputies and officers from Galva and Canton, secured the building while emergency medical personnel and firefighters provided support. The training lasted about two-and-a-half hours.
This was the first active shooter training at the school in about a decade, and it's been about six years since the department had the chance to do training like this.
"We don't get this opportunity very often," McPherson County Undersheriff Skyler Christians said. "It helps keep us in shape, whether it's in a school or business or other large building with a lot of people."
Active shooters have become a more prominent concern in the public eye in recent years. More than 200 shootings took place in K-12 schools and universities across the nation since 2013, an average of almost one every week. This statistic includes unintentional weapon discharges and instances of suicide.
Seven firearms incidents have taken place at schools in 2017, and 47 took place in 2016.
Though no shootings have occurred at Kansas K-12 schools since 2013, Canton-Galva High School decided it was best to be prepared. The Feb. 25, 2016 shootings at Excel Industries were a motivating factor in practicing the school's response.
"After Hesston, we realized a shooting could happen here, too," Beth Luhman, Canton-Galva High School's FCCLA advisor, said. "We thought it would be good to practice, just like we do fire drills and tornado drills."
The training not only gave students and staff a chance to see how law enforcement would react to a shooter, but also revealed areas in which the school and responders could improve. Christians said the department found changes it can make to be more effective, and the school learned of a problem in its communication system that can be corrected.
"We sincerely appreciate this opportunity. The things we learned can be applied to any active shooter scenario we respond to," Christians said. "We hope to be able to do more training in the future."
Entities interested in hosting active shooter training can contact the McPherson County Sheriffs Office at 245-1200 ext. 1, and ask to speak with Dean Scott.
"It gets everyone some practice," Luhman said. "It's better than just pretending — the officers can protect actual people, and we can be protected."