SWAT team members with the North Augusta Department of Public Safety will be in local schools conducting training today, and residents are urged not to be alarmed if they see officers outside a school.
According to Lt. Tim Thornton, the 21-member SWAT team will be at each of the city’s six schools — North Augusta Elementary, Mossy Creek Elementary, Hammond Hill Elementary, Paul Knox Middle, North Augusta Middle and North Augusta High — at different times throughout the day.
“We train once a month as a group in a variety of topics,” Thornton said, adding that the team trains in rifle qualifications, physical training and scenarios, which is what today’s training will be on. NADPS has trained in the schools before, but “not as often as we would like,” Thornton said.
“We’ve been in the high school a couple of times before,” he said. “It usually comes down to when the kids are out of school and the school is empty.”
All Aiken County schools are on winter break until Monday, so no students will be inside the schools while the SWAT training is going on.
Thornton said officers plan to spend about an hour at each school today.
“We walk through and get a visual idea of what the school layout is, in the event that there’s an emergency need,” he said. “We’re going to be meeting with the principals and faculty members to discuss situations and possibilities of different scenarios playing out and how we can work together to be better prepared in the event one of these emergencies takes place.”
Faculty members will also be providing input on what they think emergency needs are.
Thornton urged people not to worry if they see a large number of patrol cars outside a school.
“There’s no reason to be alarmed,” he said. “It’s a training exercise we’re hoping to take care of while the kids are out of school.”
Similar trainings have been held by the Aiken Department of Public Safety and the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office, but neither agency has any trainings planned.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Clemson University and hails from Williston.