On Aug. 6, Aitkin Public Schools, in cooperation with local law enforcement and emergency response teams, conducted an active shooter emergency training scenario at the high school.

The purpose of the exercise was for community partners to better respond, serve and help prevent harm to citizens. The exercise was designed to test and train responders from the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Aitkin and Hill City Police Departments, North Ambulance Service, First Responders, Aitkin Fire Department, the city of Aitkin, Aitkin High School, state responders, Riverwood Healthcare and Aitkin Health and Human Services on policies and procedural plans already in place for each agency. 

Following the exercise, a roundtable discussion was held at the Sheriff’s Office to identify areas of preparation in need of improvement if a large-scale emergency scenario were to actually occur.


During the exercise, real response from the participating agencies occurred, and the city street department blocked off the roads within a two block radius of the high school. The drill lasted approximately four hours.

All agencies participating in the mock active shooter exercise were instructed to carry on “in place” as they would on a normal workday. Meanwhile, seven mock gunshot victims positioned themselves in the high school media center, each wearing a card listing their injuries and mental status.

The mock shooter was positioned nearby, and the drill began with a loud speaker simulating the sound of live gunfire. “Code Red” was announced over the intercom, followed by the arrival of responding law enforcement officers. Once the threat of the shooter was eliminated by law enforcement, first responders entered the media center.

A call was made to dispatch for Emergency Medical Services to provide an ambulance. Meanwhile, officers checked the mock victims and acted out necessary first aid based on the conditions listed on the cue cards.

The speaker began playing sounds of panicked screaming in the hallways. Law enforcement cleared each room in search of additional threats within 20 minutes before allowing EMS to safely enter the building.

Each mock victim was triaged based on the severity of their injuries. The fire department arrived and was escorted by law enforcement up to the media center to aid in transporting victims on stretchers to the awaiting ambulances.

Within 35 minutes of the start of the drill,  ambulances had begun transporting all mock victims to the nearest medical facility, Riverwood Healthcare Center. Hospital Emergency Room staff then determined whether to transport mock victims via North Memorial Agusta 109 Grand helicopter to the nearest available trauma care center in St. Cloud, the Metropolitan or Duluth.

Responder comments:

• Aitkin County Dispatch Supervisor Patrice Erickson said, “This was a good training, the first time ever.”

• South Aitkin First Responder Bobbi Bourassa said, “EMS did a good job of triaging patients and having the necessary equipment.”

• Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida said, “This reflected great work between the different law enforcement agencies.”

• Aitkin High School Principal Paul Karelis said, “This really opens up your eyes to the big picture of things that need to be done in an emergency.”

• Aitkin County Public Health Supervisor Erin Melz said, “This was an excellent testament of our community.”

• South Aitkin First Responder Jim White said, “Every uniform color blended to work together.”

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