Galesburg school shooting drill tests emergency response

Tragic school shootings are all too real across the country these days. That’s one reason why Galesburg developed a special drill. It’s a scenario for safety.

As first responders pull into Galesburg High School on Wednesday morning, it sets the stage for a drill that painfully mirrors reality.

“There were four fatalities,” said Diane VanHootegem, school spokesperson, during a mock press conference.

In this simulation, a gunman turns deadly and critically injures a dozen more people.

“It was crazy,” said Aleste Mikonga, 16, who participated in the drill.

It centers on the Galesburg Area Vocational Center.

“We should be ready for something like that, and to be together,” he said.

Inside the Mobile Command Unit, participants respond to the situation and make decisions. Like an actual event, this drill changes minute-to-minute. It’s very close to the real thing.

“Lead agencies can talk together face-to-face and then reach out to our people in the field,” said Battalion Chief Brad Stevenson, Galesburg Fire Department.

This drill is about communication and coordination. It’s the kind of preparation that could make a difference during a real emergency.

This 90-minute exercise evolves from a conference room inside the Knox County Health Department. That’s where organizers gather facts and inform the the public.

“This is a good experience for our initial response,” said Captain Rod Riggs, Galesburg Police Department. “Then turning it over to fire, EMS or whoever needs to be brought in.”

For those playing a role in this drill, it hits close to home. It’s a life lesson that’s sometimes all too real.

“You always want to know if your child or your grandchild is safe,” said Jon Sibley, who portrayed a parent during the drill. “I am very happy that the Galesburg school district is finally starting to do some practice scenarios.”

Drillers also used social media like Facebook and Twitter to deliver information during the exercise.

“We hope that our law enforcement, fire department, all the emergency facilities, teachers and principals are ready for this,” Sibley concluded.

It’s a demonstration from a caring community to deal with a disaster they hope never happens.