Clark County agencies, venues often revise safety plans after threats

The deadliest shooting in U.S. history has led first responders and venues across Clark County and the Miami Valley to take a close look at their planning and procedures once again.

At least 58 people are dead and another 500 were taken to hospitals in Las Vegas on Sunday night after authorities said Stephen Paddock opened fire on a concert crowd from his nearby hotel room window.

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In Clark County, law enforcement leaders, emergency management planners and others said there’s a constant need to evaluate and rethink procedures to respond effectively to a major tragedy. Sunday’s shooting will likely be reviewed and taken into account for future planning, they said.

“Whenever we do stuff, whether it is an event at the fairgrounds or Cliff Park, we do a threat assessment and look for vulnerable areas and try to lessen that threat,” said Maj. Chris Clark of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office. “(Vendors and promoters) have always been very highly accepting to what our thought process is and what our suggestions are and that sort of thing. There is no way to make everything 100 percent secure, that’s just not possible. However it’s our job and through our experience to try to take that and lessen it as much as they can.”

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The way deputies train to respond to an active shooter has changed significantly in recent years, Clark said. In the past, deputies learned to wait for backup and then develop a plan to enter a structure to confront the shooter. But those methods have changed in light of mass shootings in recent years, he said.

“When you talk about taking a minute or two, that is lives lost,” Clark said. “We want to make it so we are training our officers to confront the threat as a solo officer. Shoot toward us and not the citizens. It’s a three day-intense course.”

Officials from the Springfield and Urbana police divisions didn’t return calls seeking comment Monday.

Several Miami Valley residents narrowly avoided being in the wrong place at the wrong time Sunday.

A Bellbrook native left the country music festival in Las Vegas just a half hour before Paddock allegedly opened fire from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort, according to her mother.

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Molly Sparks called her mother, Lori Sparks, early this morning and told her about the mass shootings.

“As a parent getting that 2 a.m. phone call from your children is heart-stopping,” Lori Sparks posted on Facebook.

“I got that call (this morning) from my daughter Molly Sparks, who had been at that country concert in Las Vegas, but luckily had left about 30 minutes before the chaos started,” she added. “Those that were not so lucky, my heart goes out to their families and I will pray for the injured as well. I hope that type of call never happens again.”

In Springfield, venues like the Clark State Performing Arts Center work closely with law enforcement to make local events as safe as possible, said Adele Adkins, executive director of the center. The idea that local venues need to plan for situations like a mass shooting is sad, she said, but so a necessity.

“It is sad that an organizations devoted to the arts and entertainment, celebrating life and culture at its finest, must consider these most modern of threats,” Adkins said. “Still we are confident that through both engineering and pre-planning, we can offer our patrons the safest and securest venue possible in which to enjoy those arts.”

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She pointed to attacks like the Manchester Arena bombing in England earlier this year, in which a man detonated a homemade bomb outside as fans left an Ariana Grande concert. That attack killed 22 people and injured more than 100. The Clark County venue re-evaluated its procedures after that attack as well, Adkins said.

“We are constantly observing what our colleagues at other venues are doing, trying to glean best practices within the industry,” Adkins said. “The Performing Arts Readiness Project funded by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation has been instrumental in coordinating procedures and policies for arts organizations nationwide. We have benefited from their insights.”

Law enforcement takes the lead on how best to deal with situations like a mass shooting, said Lisa D’Allessandris, director of the Clark County Emergency Management Agency. But she said her agency regularly provides a support role to first responders and regularly reviews the county’s mass casualty incident plan to ensure victims in a shooting or other emergency can be treated as quickly and effectively as possible.

The countywide plan has been in effect since at least 2002 and is reviewed every few years. It’s been revised four times, she said. The plan details everything from each agency’s responsibilities to how patients should be evaluated, transported to medical facilities and treated, she said.

“As new protocols come out, new lessons learned come out, new techniques, we are constantly looking for ways to revise and improve,” she said.

Organizers at Ohio’s Country Concert at Hickory Hill Lakes said their staff have developed “layers of security” for their popular summer event in Shelby County. The concert takes place in Fort Laramie.

“Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart has been involved as our sheriff, adviser or head of our security for each event,” said Paul Barhorst, president of country concert in a text to the Springfield News-Sun. “He brings with him experience as former superintendent of Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation and second-in-command at the Ohio attorney general’s office.”

Janet Eby and four other members of her Eaton-based band had stepped off a bus just two blocks from the melee.

People walking down the Vegas strip were very solemn, many on cell phones, Eby said. The scene was “eerie” and “scary” as sirens wailed and police responded but they had only scant information about what was happening.

“You think it’s going to happen elsewhere and not to you,” she said. “We were only two blocks from the Mandalay. We could have been off at that stop very easily.”

Staff Writer Tom Gnau contributed to this report.

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