GEMA/HS Dispatch December 2017 Edition - Page 20

Training prepares local, state partners to deal with bomb threats A By Julia Regeski s shards of hot pink watermelon littered a pristine October sky, a group of wide- eyed and ears-covered students looked up in awe. They had just witnessed a controlled detonation of a blasting cap explosive, a type of bomb that, some say, is something this course’s attendees may have to deal with in the future. Students learned how to handle blasting caps and other types of explosives during a Mangaing School Bomb Threats Course organized by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency. While the latter part of the class included dramatic demonstrations of various bombs, instructors also ensured students knew much more than how bombs look and feel. Participants took part in a comprehensive classroom portion of the course in which they learned to assess a bomb threat and react strategically. Students take the knowledge learned and carry it back to their professional roles, which include everything from school personnel to law enforcement officers. Special Agent Matt Howard, a class instructor and bomb technician with GBI, believes anyone in charge of safety should add bomb threats to their existing security plan. “You can’t plan for everything,” said Howard, “but you can plan for a lot.” Benny Long, assistant superintendent of transportation, safety and support at Fannin County Schools, has done just that. He’s attended the course multiple times over the years and encouraged many of his peers do the same, regardless of their position or skill level. “Every school system needs to be aware of the possibilities and correct procedures for dealing with it,” said Long. “We have had numerous people attend over the years in various roles.” Another student, Dustin Rogers, assistant dean 20 of students and director of security at Tallulah Falls School, has taken what he learned during the bomb threat training and implemented it as a specialized measure of his facility’s current preparations. “While taking many classes such as this in the military, none were connected to schools,” he said. “I wanted to take this class to finalize my current standard operating procedures and train the faculty and staff at Tallulah Falls School.” Many who attended felt the class is unique on a national scale. “I haven’t seen it anywhere else,” said Howard, adding that the class’ accessibility for a diverse audience is key to the lessons’ effectiveness. “It’s a good one to take to the public and people, say, school resource officers and folks that don’t necessarily expect to deal with explosives.” That was the aim of the course when it was established more than 12 years ago. “Are we going to give them, in a one day course, enough information for them to feel fully comfortable in this situation? Maybe,” said Tod Keys, exercise program manager at GEMA/HS. “At the very least we’re going to give them enough information where if they have this threat happen, they can analyze it and know there are resources available to come in and help.” Despite the hours spent in a classroom, organizers believe the best way to drive home the importance of the course material is with the bomb demonstration. “We can talk all day about bomb threats and how important they are, but until someone feels that ‘thump’ or sees that blast, they won’t take it seriously,” said Keys. At the end of the day, as the diverse group of students headed home, many reflected on what they had learned and what it means for those they protect. “This is an area that we have never really trained for nor knew a lot about,” said Rogers. “Now, we will be able to adequately respond to such a threat.”