The Woodward News

January 3, 2013

Intruder drill held at schools

Chris Cooper
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Woodward teachers had a chance to put their emergency training into action during simulated intruder drills Wednesday.

School Resource Officer Sergeant Jack Brown said that the drills, which were held at the Early Childhood Center and Cedar Heights Elementary, went off without a hitch.

During the drills, a second School Resource Officer Chris Woods portrayed an armed intruder.  Woods entered each facility and fired a blank round, at which time an intruder alert was announced over the intercom and the school went into lockdown mode.  Since no children were present during the drill, teachers secured their imaginary students and locked their doors. Woods then continued to simulate the role of an intruder, roaming the halls, attempting to enter classrooms, and firing blank rounds.

After a few minutes, Woodward's SWAT team, consisting of officers from the Woodward Police Department and Woodward County Sheriff's Office, arrived on scene, entered the building in tactical gear with unloaded weapons, searched the facility for the gunman, and then "eliminated the target."

Fire Chief Steve Day, Assistant Fire Chief Todd Finley, and Superintendent Tim Merchant were also present during the drills to make note of how the operation would go so they would know what to expect and how they could assist should the situation arise.

Brown said, "This was a dry run through this time to get a feel for it and see how things went. We also wanted to introduce teachers to the sound of gunfire within the building and to show them how quickly a gunman could make it through the building."

Brown said another crucial aspect of the drill was to present teachers with the very real possibility of a scenario like this happening.

"During the debriefing following the drill the teachers said it was very helpful," he said. "They did a fantastic job, they were very prepared, and it was a very successful drill. On our end they did excellent, as far as the gunman trying to get to them, he was unable to do so."

Merchant expressed similar approval saying, "I was very pleased with the drill. I thought the response from the teachers and the way they handled the situation went extremely well. Also the emergency responders were very professional and precise. It was great experience for everyone involved."

With the success at the 2 schools Wednesday, plans call for additional simulated intruder drills to take place at all public schools in the Woodward school district.

"We're unsure of exact dates on the other 4 schools, but each will be done," Brown said. "I've also been in contact with Woodward Christian Academy, I know they're not part of the Woodward Public School District, but I'm planning to meet with officials of that school and see what we can do there as well."

Brown said that officials plan on making some changes with the other upcoming drills in order to make them even more realistic.

"In the future we plan on making the drill much more chaotic, including pulling the fire alarm, things like that. We didn't this time because we didn't want the alarm to drown out the blanks being fired," he said.

In addition, the school resource officer said more emergency personnel will be asked to participate in the other drills.

"In the future we're thinking about making a bigger scenario. We didn't go all out like we'd wanted this time, but in the future we're hoping to get firefighters, EMS, and the Woodward Regional Hospital involved as well. That way if anything like this did actually occur, God forbid, everyone would know their role and what they need to do," he said.

Brown said overall Wednesday's scenario went very smoothly and that both teachers and administrators seemed to be very happy with it.

"I was extremely pleased," Merchant said, noting, "It was informative, we learned a few things we need to do differently, and we also saw our strengths. The whole reason for doing this is to be prepared."

Brown likewise expressed the emphasis on preparation, saying, "Perfect practice leads to perfect performance. You practice perfect and when you need them to things will go like they're supposed to."

While there are currently no official plans to make these joint organization drills a regular training exercise, Merchant said, "I could see a definite possibility of these drills becoming an annual event."