Sheriff’s dept. run “active shooter” drill at school

DSC_0178A man in a red shirt carrying a rifle and a concealed handgun walked through the doors of Whitehall Elementary School on Monday and took Dorothy Hart’s fourth grade class hostage.

A standoff with the Washington County Sheriff’s Department’s Special Emergency Response Team ensued and after several tense moments the gunman was shot and a potential disaster was averted.

Though the gunman was carrying plastic weapons and was actually a member of the Sheriff’s Department, police responded to the school as if the scenario were real.

More than a dozen members of the sheriff’s department participated in the “active shooter” drill, which was held shortly after students had settled into their classrooms Monday morning.

The drill included two scenarios, one of which involved a report of an active shooter in the building and another where an upset father took hostage two teachers and their pupils after learning he had lost custody of his young son.

Although the sheriff’s department has routinely held similar drills, the frequency of the training has increased during the last few months.

“We’ve been doing this for five years,” said Captain Bryn Reynolds, Road Patrol Supervisor for the sheriff’s department, “but obviously since the shootings at Sandy Hook (Elementary School, Newtown Connecticut) other schools have come forward.”

Monday’s exercise was the second time in as many weeks the department had conducted “active shooter” training in the district. Similar exercises were held at the high school earlier this month and the sheriff’s department also held drills in Fort Ann on Monday. Officers plan to conduct training at the Mary J. Tanner and Granville Elementary schools later this month.

“It’s important because it allow us to familiarize ourselves with the buildings if something were to ever happen,” Reynolds said.

On Monday, shortly after the school went into lockdown amid reports of an armed gunman on the property, officers, dressed in full SERT (Special Emergency Response Team) gear—camouflage fatigues, body armor, helmets, eye protection and assault rifles equipped with flashlights and scopes, stormed the building.

The unit methodically made its way through the hallways, securing rooms as it searched for the gunman, who was found in the gymnasium, dead of a self-inflicted gun wound.

After regrouping, the unit was confronted with an even more dangerous scenario, a gunman who had taken an entire classroom hostage.

The department’s hostage negotiator was able to secure the release of the students but snipers located outside the school had to take the gunman out after he became irritated and lied about the number of weapons he had.

Whitehall and other neighboring schools have examined their security measures following the senseless murder of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December.

The district has held meetings to examine security protocols, strengthened visitor procedures, instituted new dismissal procedures that limit unfettered access to the school, and put in place additional security measures, like numbering classrooms from the outside so police officers can more quickly identify specific rooms and covering windows so there inside of rooms aren’t so visible from the outside.

David St. Germain, principal at the elementary school, said staff practices a lock-down situation every fall, but decided to do it an additional time with the sheriff’s department present.

Reynolds said the training is important for officers and members of the school faculty so they everyone is prepared if the situations were real.

He said the department often provides training materials for local schools so the teachers know how to respond in an emergency.

The training is also important to the students.

“The big take away for the students is that they see us wearing all this gear, we look like monsters or robots, but we don’t want to them to be scared and not come to us. It’s similar to what the firefighters do in their turnout gear. In real life we don’t want to be scared, we want them to approach us,” Reynolds said.

 

 

Comments

comments

Read more in this week's Times in newsstands now or click here to read right now with our e-edition.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Northshire Freepress – 07/31/15

Lakes Classifieds – 07/31/15

Lakes Region Freepress – 07/31/15

Weekender – 07/31/15

Classifieds 07/29/15

Rain stops, the park rocks

Magill and Macri 3 cover

By Jamie Norton The skies opened up five minutes before Daryl Magill – one of the biggest draws of the […]

Dresden works to eradicate invasive weeds

Water chestnut harvester redit VT DEC

By Dan King The town of Dresden has started its annual effort to remove invasive water chestnuts from Lake Champlain, […]

Man walking to D.C. to ‘raise awareness’

don

By Dan King Don Duncan may be 65 years old but he’s not letting that stop him from raising awareness […]

Town, village to pledge support for bike trail

Canal Trail

By Dan King A multi-use trail from Waterford to Whitehall is expected to receive letters of support from both the […]

Hebron woman charged with urinating outside store

By Christina Scanlon A Hebron woman faces several charges, including driving while intoxicated and possession of marijuana, after witnesses and […]

Area man to hold talk about Robin Williams

By Linda Ellingsworth It’s been almost a year since the untimely passing of comic great Robin Williams, and a local […]

Ride to benefit veterans

By Christina Scanlon When the bikers hit the road for the third annual ride to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project […]