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Mayo-Fairmont plans active shooter training

FAIRMONT — Mayo Clinic Health System in Fairmont will be the site of an active shooter drill Tuesday afternoon.

Although the exact time for the training has not been announced, anyone on the Mayo campus will be notified before the exercise begins. Social media and signage will be used to alert the public to avoid unnecessary panic.

“We think it will take from 5 to 10 minutes for the actual drill to occur. After that, we will have a lot of debriefings,” said Erik Odegard, manager of security operations for Mayo’s southwest region, which includes Fairmont.

He stressed that no weapon, real or fake, will be used during the drill, which could involve up to 200 people.

“It will be the whole Mayo campus. That will include the clinic, the hospital and the new oncology center,” he said. “We will not be impacting patient care. We are still going to allow patient visitors.”

Odegard has been working on active shooter drills at Mayo sites for the last two years and spends several months coordinating with local authorities such as Mike Hunter, Fairmont police chief; and Abigail Nesbit, Martin County emergency management director.

“I’ve done several of these, and each time we do one, we learn different things from the staff,” Odegard said.

Nesbit agreed.

“Every active shooter drill is completely different,” she said. “In this scenario, there is not going to be any weapon. They won’t be evacuating patients.”

People on campus will be alerted at the start of the drill. They will follow the run, hide, fight protocol developed by Homeland Security. Those who are able to “escape” the building will go south to the Fairmont High School parking lot or north to the Bethel Evangelical Free Church parking lot.

“There will be police officers on site so that people leaving know to put their hands up to show they are not a threat to the police officers or the public,” Nesbit said.

A person designated as “the bad guy,” accompanied by a police officer, will walk through the campus. If they see someone who is not well hidden, they will offer suggestions on better places to hide, demonstrate techniques to secure a door or give other safety advice.

Mayo staff has expressed support for the drill.

“They are pleased that we are doing this because they know that it is a reality that could happen,” Odegard said.

“This is a low-stress scenario to teach people what to do in case this happens since it is becoming a much more relevant threat to our country,” Nesbit said.

Hunter said his department welcomes the opportunity to have discussions and participate in these training scenarios to teach people how to keep themselves and others safe.

“The Fairmont Police Department has partnered with the Martin County Sheriff’s Office to provide a team of officers who focus on providing a wide variety of training on the topic of active shooters,” Hunter said. “Sgt. James Tietje, Sgt. Mike Beletti and Deputy Cory Ballard have received specialized training to instruct businesses, schools, government entities and places of worship on active shooter protocol.”

Nesbit and law enforcement provide these services at no charge in their ongoing effort to keep the area safe.

“You plan for the worst and hope for the best,” Nesbit said.

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