By Max Hrenda
Even though everyone knew it would happen, the bomb threat called in to the Carter County Courthouse Thursday morning still emptied the building and drew police to the scene.
But then, that was the point.
The courthouse was closed for nearly two hours Thursday morning for employees to take part in emergency drills.
Carter County Emergency Management Director Andrew Worley, who orchestrated the evacuation drill, said that, overall, the exercise went smoothly.
“It went very well,” Worley said. “The coordination between law enforcement and the county staff was very good. Everything, the training and the exercise, went very well.”
Although Worley was pleased with the drill’s results, he said some flaws were brought to light over its course.
“With any exercise, if you don’t make a mistake, you’ve done it wrong,” Worley said. “We did have a couple of areas we can improve on that we identified, and we’ll have follow-up meetings with elected officials and staff to address those.”
While Worley handled the evacuation, Sheriff Chris Mathes conducted drills in the courtroom, which involved courtroom security and a disruptive court case.
According to Mathes, the courtroom security drill was focused on potential threats coming from outside the courtroom.
“We had weapons placed either on people coming in or in the courtroom,” Mathes said. “The officers did a security sweep and checked people. It went really well.”
The second drill, the disruptive court case, dealt with threats of violence within the courtroom.
“The bailiffs responded and dealt with the issues,” Mathes said. “The panic button was alerted, and Elizabethton responded to assist.”
Like Worley, Mathes said he thought the exercise went well, though he, too, noticed some errors.
“We found a few things that we think we can improve on,” Mathes said. “But, overall, had it been a real-life situation, it would have been good for the good guys. Everything is prepared for if something really did happen.”