Woodward, Okla. —
To better prepare for a situation like the recent Newtown, Conn. school shooting, Woodward Public Schools will soon be conducting emergency intruder drills.
Woodward Superintendent Tim Merchant said, "We're still drawing out the details, but on Jan 2, local law enforcement and emergency response teams will be conducting a live intruder drill inside our schools."
When asked why the school district had decided to hold the drill, Merchant said, "It serves a twofold purpose: firstly, for the emergency response and law enforcement teams, it's great training for that situation. Secondly teachers are constantly doing emergency drills, but none of our teachers have ever been put into a stressed situation like this before, so, without the kids being there, we're going to try to put them through as lifelike a situation as possible to sensitize them to what the situation might be like."
The superintendent said that the Jan. 2 drill will be conducted at the Early Childhood Center and Cedar Heights Elementary, with additional drills to be held later at the other school sites.
"We're not conducting them all at once because to make it as lifelike as it can be is going to take some time. Then afterwords we'll be sitting down, debriefing and going over our strong points and weak points and looking at opportunities to improve upon," he said.
Merchant hailed the drill as a great opportunity for the community, the schools, and response teams to see what areas need to be improved upon.
"Ultimately every decision and everything we're doing is to keep students as safe as possible," he said. "We do routine drills, fire related drills, intruder drills, this just adds a different component to it. You see mock training in other fields such as emergency management, so this simulation is just another great opportunity for training."
Merchant described the situation local teachers will find themselves placed in.
"We're going to put our teachers through the most realistic scenario we can to get them in the mindset of having an intruder in the building," he said. "We won't announce ahead of time what time of day the scenario will be supposedly happening in. We'll announce what time of the day its supposed to be, then they'll go to the area they would normally be in during that time of the day and respond as though they have their full class with them."
Merchant said that order to make the drill as effective as possible, the situation must look and feel authentic. To do that, the drill will include local police officers, sheriff deputies, and medical personnel responding to the emergency, as well as the possibility of blank rounds being fired during the simulation.
The superintendent admits that creating an authentic simulation for teachers, officers, and medical personnel will undoubtedly result in a situation that looks very real to those watching it from the outside. As such, he would like to alert the community that the situation on Jan. 2 will solely be a drill and there will be no actual danger for anyone to be concerned about.
"We need the message out there that during this time frame, these are only practice drills. If you're driving by, from the outside, this may seem like a very realistic situation, but people need to realize and know this is just a drill," he said.
The school has several means by which they plan to alert the community that the situation on Jan. 2 is only a drill.
"We plan to use the radio to help get the message out there that this is only a drill, but we'll also be using our Alert Now system and sending messages through the phone and by e-mail reminding individuals it's only a drill, and that students won't be there that day," Merchant said.