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Preparing for the unthinkable
RJ Photo: Kayla Barnes Area firefighters, including members of the Argyle Fire Department, carry a volunteer on a stretcher during an emergency response drill at Argyle High School April 27.
ARGYLE - Men armed with rifles while students or teachers lie injured and officials organize outside, attempting hostage negotiations; this scenario describes the event emergency workers from Lafayette and Green counties trained for during a drill at Argyle High School a week ago.

As part of an effort to educate multiple agencies in Lafayette County and those from the surrounding counties, Argyle High School was host to a mock active school-shooting drill April 27 that involved law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel.

Theresa Burgess, emergency management director of Lafayette County, was contacted by Argyle EMS Chief Andy Chenous, who asked for assistance in creating the full-scale exercise. Once finalized in June, the Argyle school board was introduced to the WAVE Plus System in a November meeting. The district contacted professional security technology dealer Thomas Hausner & Associates LLC of Fontana to gather more information on the system.

The system, technology which sends out text and audio emergency messages automatically when triggered by an emergency incident, was then purchased for about $24,000 and installed in February.

WAVE, a product of SecureTech Systems Inc, is a way for any staff or faculty at Argyle schools to instantly call for help when there is an emergency by pressing wireless panic buttons strategically placed throughout the school. According to the SecureTech website, "first responders are notified of the emergency immediately without any dispatch delay or confusion." A pre-recorded message transmitted over law enforcement radio provides details to supply officers with the location and will immediately place the school in lockdown.

"There is an ability to know where the threat is moving through the building, and that combined with 911 reports, will hopefully be good information to help law enforcement get to the threat," Burgess wrote in an email.

Burgess said she felt the training was a complete success. It was the first time a fire department, EMS and law enforcement rescue task force training was orchestrated in such a cohesive way.

"There will be great improvement as these skills are practiced," Burgess wrote. "It is always good to work the teams through the schools to create familiarity with building layout and communication needs."

Area schools have been working with Burgess on Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate training commonly referred to as ALICE Drills, along with Stop the Bleed training in both Shullsburg and Black Hawk schools. Belmont may also do a full-scale exercise later in the fall, she noted.

"The goal with every training event is to safely work through a situation to find areas in need of improvement and to determine strengths and weaknesses," Burgess added.

Argyle, Belmont and Juda school districts were a part of the training. Officers from the Argyle, Blanchardville, Darlington, Shullsburg, Belmont, Cuba City, New Glarus, Monticello, Hazel Green police departments and Lafayette County Sheriff's Office were also on scene. Members of the Blanchardville, Argyle and Green County EMS departments as well as Wiota and Woodford First Response and Paramount Ambulance were present, in addition to firefighters from Argyle, Darlington, Woodford and Wiota.

Representatives from Monroe Clinic and officials of the village of Argyle, Green, Iowa and Lafayette County Emergency Management departments were on hand. The Emergency Response team comprised of members in Monroe and Green and Lafayette counties was present, along with Crisis Negotiations.