Lt. Duane Manns with Southern Poly said he organized the Wednesday event, which included his department and Marietta Police, Cobb Sheriff’s SWAT Team, MetroAtlanta Ambulance Service, Marietta Fire, Paulding County Sheriff’s SWAT Team and Georgia Emergency Management Agency, as a way to better prepare his and other law enforcement officers in the case of a shooter on campus.
“It’s our desire here at Southern Poly to make sure that the campus community is safe and prepared as much as possible,” he said.
Six men from his department were involved in the drill, which took place at a Southern Poly property at 401 Rose Drive in Marietta near South Marietta Parkway. The college purchased the two-story, former grocery store and night club earlier this year with plans to develop it into an academic building in the next year or two.
Nearly 100 first responders and volunteers imitating shooters or hostages carrying training pistols and rifles were dressed in protective gear, including masks and vests, carrying assault rifles and handguns.
The first exercise involved a shooting scenario in a classroom. The team was responsible for finding the suspect and stopping the threat.
A second scenario was acted out in a simulated dormitory on Southern Poly’s campus.
Manns said the incident involved his department getting a call that there were shots fired in the dorm, and SWAT was deployed to resolve the issue. While there, the power went out and, using night vision equipment, the team had to maneuver through the dark space to detain the suspect and help anyone injured.
A third drill was enacted at a mock fraternity party on campus where two active shooters were discovered on the scene and the teams had to find them while still taking care of the wounded.
The last drill of the afternoon involved a shooter in the school’s student center.
“It was a former employee that was fired some months back who went into the student center and started shooting people and was looking for his boss,” Manns said of the drill.
The boss was eventually taken hostage by the mock shooter and it was the officers’ responsibility to locate him safely and take down the shooter.
Using fake bullets called “simunition,” they were able to fire at the suspects in each scenario to try and protect the hostages. Hostages and attackers were volunteers from Southern Poly and Cobb’s 911 call centers.
“It was a success,” Manns said. “Everybody learned a lot and the good thing with working with so many different agencies, you can be critiqued.”
Manns said the university, to his knowledge, has never had a shooting on campus in which someone was injured.
“Those incidents that happened on our campus and these incidents that are popping up throughout the country are fueling us to prepare better,” Manns said. “We are all about training and protecting our community. This helps to make our campus to be safer.”
Lt. Jake King, who serves as the Marietta SWAT commander, said his department had about eight patrol officers involved and 20 members from SWAT participating.
“Today was a pretty big event,” he said. “I don’t remember when we had this many participate in an exercise before.”
King applauded the drill, saying how important it is to work well with multiple departments.
“We don’t have a lot of opportunities to work with other agencies because our schedules don’t always line up,” he said. “We wanted to be involved in this to share our ideas and philosophies and learn what others are doing.”