Marshall County Sheriff’s Office leads active shooter training for courthouse staff Friday

T-R PHOTOS BY ROBERT MAHARRY — Marshall County Courthouse Security Deputy Doug Bausman, front, reloads while Chief Deputy Ben Veren, middle, and fellow Courthouse Security Deputy Jack McAllister, back, look on during an active shooter training at the courthouse on Friday afternoon.

As most residents know very well, the Marshall County Courthouse was closed for nearly five years after the building sustained severe damage during the EF-3 tornado on July 19, 2018, and that fact made Friday afternoon’s active shooter training led by Marshall County Sheriff Joel Phillips and Chief Deputy Ben Veren even more important for employees who may not otherwise yet have known all of their options in a worst case scenario.

“This training was long overdue because of being closed so long because of the tornado. We have a lot of new staff who hadn’t spent years working (in) this building, so to understand how things work here in an emergency is important,” Veren said. “Just like a fire drill, it’s something that if you don’t practice it, you’re not gonna know what to do in a real emergency. So it’s crucial to get that exposure in a training environment to have an idea what to do in a real world emergency because that training environment then speeds up the response.”

Phillips, Veren and a group of other deputies and courthouse security deputies — Wes Beane had the dishonor of portraying the shooter while Veren fired off blank cordite rounds to simulate gunfire — provided a PowerPoint presentation and videos before moving into a real-life simulation with a total of four scenarios and the options of running, hiding or fighting presented. As Veren explained during a debriefing at the conclusion of the training, finding an escape route is the smartest course of action with the highest rate of survival.

“That works out well because most people’s natural reaction to danger is to get away from it, so the further you can put yourself from that danger, the better the chance of survivability,” Veren said.

Marshall County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jarret Heil, who solicited a big round of applause for the MCSO team during the wrap-up portion, told the T-R it’s crucial for the 50 or so county employees who work in the courthouse on a daily basis to know where to go if tragedy strikes.

Marshall County Deputy Wes Beane, who was assigned the task of portraying an active shooter during Friday afternoon’s training at the courthouse, looks for a target inside the treasurer’s office.

“It’s important to have a plan. This was important today for everyone. You can always role play in your mind, but to role play in your mind in a real life situation, you can’t duplicate that any other way like we did today,” Heil said. “So we’re excited to do that, and I think everyone had fun with it while taking it seriously at the same time… And it’s our job to keep people safe in this building, and this is part of the training that we need to do. It’s very unfortunate that these are the times we live in, but we feel that we have our people very armed to get out the doors if something would happen.”

So while a few citizens may have been frustrated that they couldn’t pay their registration fees, pick up a driver’s license or even vote early for a few short hours, county leaders felt that the effort to keep courthouse employees safe was well worth the time spent. Veren and Phillips were sure to thank the public for understanding, acknowledging the temporary inconvenience but stressing the importance of the information they were sharing.

“With the courthouse completed, redesigned work areas, and several employees that are new to the courthouse, this was a great opportunity to provide violent intruder training to county and state employees,” Phillips said. “The training provided is designed to be effective in our everyday lives whether at work, visiting businesses, entertainment venues or public places. It is extremely unfortunate these events occur, and we are dedicated to preventing violence and providing training to citizens to survive violent attacks.”

And for the workers who made it through the temporary chaos, they were invited to enjoy a variety of treats and refreshments in the grand courtroom on the fourth floor, including Veren’s famous rolled scotcheroos made with marshmallows. Heil and Veren weren’t sure how often the training will be held in the future, but staff from the MCSO often travels to school districts around the county to provide similar guidance for students and staff.

“We just wanted to get this first one done. I think there’s gonna be the ongoing informational training, and then, as for the actual live active shooter, we’ll determine how often we want to do that,” Heil said. “There’s always new information that the sheriff’s office brings to us annually anyway on this, so we’ll continue with that.”


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