School officials pleased with disaster drill
May 27, 2005
More than a week after a school shooting drill, officials are trying to organize the data they collected and the shortcomings they identified.
According to Craig Middle School Principal Steve Wiersma, most of the identified inadequacies are in equipment. The school’s intercom system is not loud enough, and it does not cover the entire school. The evacuation alarm suffers the same shortcomings.
Another issue teachers brought forward after the drill was a shortage of first-aid kits, blankets and window covers.
There is also poor ventilation during a lockdown situation — a problem Wiersma isn’t sure how to solve.
School district employees, rescuers and law enforcement officials collaborated to stage a mock school shooting May 18 at the middle school. The three-hour exercise was held during school hours, though 210 students did not attend.
Just knowing where the problems lie is a huge benefit of the exercise, he said.
“This forced us to come up with quality emergency plans districtwide and to actually see if they would work,” Superintendent Pete Bergmann said. “It was a huge opportunity for us, and I think it was a tremendous success.”
To Wiersma, one of the high points of the drill is that emergency responders now are familiar with the school and the district’s emergency response plans.
“The benefit for my building is that everyone knows we need to be prepared for this kind of situation,” he said.
Craig Middle School has a camera system and will be upgrading it next year to a continuous monitoring one that officials can see by logging on the a Web site and entering a password.
That, Wiersma said, would have been a huge benefit in this situation. Another is the increased communication be—-tween the schools themselves and emergency responders.
One of the district’s concerns was the emotional effects of holding the drill while students were in classes, but Wiersma said those effects were minimal. Students may have heard the “shots” as well as the fire alarm and announcements that the school was under lockdown, but those who participated said there was no effect on the classrooms.
The actors, though, were a different story. Wiersma said the realism of the activity shocked them. Crisis counselors were on hand to talk to them after the drill.
“It was certainly a good exercise, but I don’t know that we’ll want to do this again,” Wiersma said. “It was all around a very good thing.”
The school district’s maintenance supervisor, Mike Taylor, took a lead role in organizing the drill. He said it was extremely beneficial.
“An incident like this would have been chaotic without this preparation and the drill,” he said. “We can only gain from this.”
Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.