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Essex County details active shooter policy

Essex County Board of Supervisors

Essex County Board of Supervisors Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— Essex County is seeking a policy to deal with the potential of an active shooter situation in one of its buildings.

Social Services Director John O’Neill briefed members of the Human Services Committee about the Armed Intruder Response Policy that was drafted with input from several department heads and research on similar policies in other counties.

“We reviewed many policies from other counties and organizations,” O’Neill said. “We drafted a one-page policy and procedure. The county attorney approved it on May 1, and he wanted the board to see it as well. We have also run it by the county manager who also approved it.”

O’Neill said the original intent of the task force was to create a lockdown policy, “but it really morphed into something broader than that.”

“It turned into a policy on how to respond when an active shooter is in a facility,” O’Neill said. “Employees will receive training on the responses of run, hide or fight. They will also work on suggested escape routes and shelter locations. The idea is to train everyone to respond without a lot of complications.”

O’Neill said that they would begin the training on the policy after full board approval and that it would be posted in the county buildings, which raised some concern from supervisors.

“I always thought the key to any policy like this was awareness,” Lewis Supervisor and Human Services Chairman David Blades said. “Awareness to what is going on around you and as soon as a situation like this becomes known that there has to be an immediate action. This probably should not be posted but should be made part of the employee’s information.”

“You certainly would not want to post location-specific plans,” Wilmington Supervisor and Public Safety Committee Chairman Randy Preston said. “But everyone should be aware of this.”

“It will be a posting for employees so they do see it on a regular basis, but not necessarily where it would be public,” O’Neill responded.

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