Drill needs more thought

By Observer editorial May 03, 2013 10:36 am
Being prepared is a great thing. In days past, schools had duck-and-cover drills that saw students ducking beneath desks in response to the Cold War and the possibility of nuclear attack. And ever since the Columbine High School attack of 1999 in Littleton, Colo., schools across the country have refined their emergency management plans.

Sometimes, however, training methods need to be called into question. Run-throughs of crisis management plans are important. There is a question, though, of how realistic exercises need to be — and how much of the surprise element is appropriate.

With all the talk in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., school shooting last December of arming teachers, it makes one wonder when a drill takes place like the one at Pine Eagle Charter School last Friday in Halfway during an in-service day. What would have happened had some of the teachers been armed and ready to defend their territory with real bullets? 

Also, what about the possibility heart attacks and strokes? Imagine the liability issues.

Thankfully, the students were at home when two masked men wearing hoodies and wielding handguns,who turned out to be members of the school staff, burst into the school, went into a meeting room full of teachers and “opened fire.”

The drill was designed to test Pine Eagle’s preparation for an assault by “active shooters.” 

The staff had received training from the Union County Sheriff’s Office on active shooter scenarios. They had learned of their options. These included not rushing out of their classrooms when gunfire erupted, and locking and barricading their doors.

What did the drill accomplish? Of the school’s 15 teachers, only two would have survived. That was an eye opener for the staff. 

The goal of the drill was to learn how people would react, so better emergency plans could be made. Parents and students need to be assured that everyone knows what to do in an emergency. That’s admirable.

Some results could not have been accomplished in any other way. The drill prompted teachers to review how they can keep themselves and their students safe, and how to stay cool. Teachers learned they needed better plans to deal with such an emergency. 

Schools should do everything they can to stay safe. But sometimes, drills go beyond what is necessary and prudent.