This is only a drill: Active shooter exercise teaches county employees lessons (VIDEO) |

This is only a drill: Active shooter exercise teaches county employees lessons (VIDEO)

Nevada County Sheriff’s Lt. Sam Brown plays the active shooter during Thursday morning's simulation, by wearing a sign that says he is the shooter, and by hitting a musical cowbell with a drum stick to signify gun shots.
Elias Funez/ |

The active shooter drill loomed Thursday over the Eric Rood Administrative Center.

County employees knew it was coming. They just didn’t know precisely when.

Expecting the exercise to start around 10 a.m., Jeffrey Thorsby heard the announcement come through his phone about 20 minutes before.

“As soon as I heard the announcement, a real sense of nervousness came over me,” said Thorsby, senior administration analyst for the Board of Supervisors. “We all knew that it was a drill, but we knew to take it seriously.”

The exercise, involving hundreds of county staff, was part of the county’s emergency action plan. Staff had completed online training about how to handle an active shooter, learning that they must take three steps in order: Run, hide, fight.

Thursday was the test.

Thorsby locked the door leading from his office to the hallway. He and a coworker then went inside his private office, locking that door behind them.

“We all hid and locked our doors and discussed what the next step would be if someone tried to open the door,” Thorsby said.

Thorsby and his coworkers opted to hide in place, as did Josh Pack, the county’s principal civil engineer. Pack had sent an email and just begun a conversation with a coworker when he heard the mock gunshots.

“The first part was a little bit of confusion,” he said. “The sounds were muffled. We weren’t sure if it was part of the drill.”

Seconds later Pack had no question. Coworkers thought the sound resembled two pieces of wood clapped together. Pack said it was like a horse’s hooves on pavement.

“It certainly grabbed your attention,” he said.

Pack sheltered in a room used for filing. He locked the door, turned off the lights and muted his cell phone. He remained there for about 20 minutes, until a sheriff’s captain used a master key to open the door.

As Pack waited in a locked room, sheriff’s Lt. Sam Brown, playing the role of the shooter, stalked the halls of the government center.

Brown started in the main lobby of the building, making a loud noise to indicate shots, before advancing to the Community Development Agency lobby. Fifteen seconds after firing his first “shot” he was trying to open doors in his search of his target — Human Resources.

Brown saw no one in the smaller lobby, though he did discover four employees behind one door. They were given sticky notes informing them of where they received “injuries.”

“At least four individuals were provided with notes,” Brown said.

Brown said he found the Human Resources Department, though he couldn’t enter. He then walked through a couple of other departments before the exercise ended.

Authorities then spoke with county employees about what they thought while hiding in place and if they had a plan to fight.

“It’s your life,” Brown said. “You’ve got to do something to save it.”

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email or call 530-477-4239.

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