This morning at approximately 7:30am Taravella went into Code Red Lockdown after a report of shots fired. Coral Springs PD/FD as well as several mutual aid agencies jumped into action to what was thought to possibly be an active shooter situation. Tensions were high as there was a threat of gun violence to the school via social media a few days ago. Police tactical teams immediately began securing students and doing a room by room exhaustive search of the entire school. FD used their drone to view the roof and other areas not easily visible or accessible. It was pretty quickly determined there were in fact no shots fired and all students and faculty were uninjured. Nonetheless the entire property remained on lockdown until the search was concluded.
At approximately 9:10 our CERT team was requested. Our team has various levels of activation including entire team, canteen activations (typically fires or hazmat) and very limited SRT (SWAT) activations. Due to the nature of this call we did an SRT activation. In an SRT activation only a handful of members are called on personally by the team commander. For this activation we utilized 3 leadership members. We responded to the school and setup in a safe zone specifically to provide canteen services to the first responders. As you can imagine this was a very active and sensitive scene with things changing as events unfolded. Shortly after we arrived a decision was made to bus the students to the Coral Springs Gymnasium next to the PD where they could be picked up by their parents. This was done carefully and methodically, checking each student before being put on a bus. CERT was asked to pack up and relocate to the gym and provide services there.
We arrived at the gym to a large crowd of parents, police and media. Students were inside the gymnasium and the goal was to get them with their parents as quickly as possible. Broward School Officials and PD worked diligently to release students and again it was handled meticulously one student at a time only when their parent was physically there to escort their child. We supplied power via generator in the parking lot for PD to use a PA system. We were again setup to provide canteen services for the first responders. We were not stocked to provide service to all at the scene.
Fortunately, very shortly after, we received cups for the students to access water fountains in the gym as well as a few pallets of bottled water. At this point we started water distribution to everyone on the scene, including first responders, staff, parents, media, etc. We probably handed out approximately 30 cases of water. We even took out our dog bowl to hydrate a dog on the scene.
A while into the activity at the gym it was announced that a suspect matching the original description was located and taken into custody. As well, a gun, determined to be a replica, was also found on the grounds. At this point with the school secured and searched and the identified suspect in custody the decision was made to stop bussing the remaining students to the gym and whatever students remained at the school would be released from there.
Being behind the scenes, while not in the 'hot zone' we get to witness our first responders in action. While tensions were high and things in flux, they did an amazing job keeping students safe, parents informed via social media and just responding in an exemplary manner. It makes us proud to be able to work with such a team of outstanding first responders. It is sad we live in times where we have such situations but we were very fortunate to not have any injuries and at the same time giving first responders first hand experience in this situation which will only make them even better prepared in the unfortunate event of a similar incident.
Icing on the cake was when the scene was winding down, Gary Nelson from Channel 4 News made a point to come over to us, shake our hands and personally thank us. He said that Coral Springs really had its act together the way they handled everything including what we did with water distribution. He said it was incredible how we took care of not only our first responders but parents and media out in the heat and that certain other agencies that won't be named would never have done this.
We cleared the gym at approximately 12:30pm. It's kind of funny how the media caught almost everything else going on but not all the work we did, although by Gary's comments and the thanks we received from the parents, students and first responders we support, we know it was a job well done. Due the the nature of the scene behind the lines, not many pictures were taken, but the few we did can be seen below or on our Facebook page.
Interested in free CERT training, including triage, fire suppression, first aid and CPR? Joining a winning team of volunteers serving their community? Look at our Events page for our next CERT Academy then click the CERT Academy link at the top of the page to register. You do not have to be a Coral Springs/Parkland resident to attend the training.