Washington School District administrators discussed how they would react if there was an active shooter situation in their buildings during a tabletop exercise last week with local police officers.
The scenario was part of a safety exercise to help train principals and other school leaders in the event of a real-life crisis at one of the schools.
“We can’t plan for everything and we know that, but the more we talk about our safety plans and discuss different ways to react, the better prepared we’ll hopefully be,” said Assistant Superintendent Dr. Brendan Mahon.
The tabletop exercise follows a meeting last month with the district’s Washington Safety Committee, which is made up of representatives of the Washington Police Department, ambulance and fire, as well the sheriff’s departments in Franklin, Warren and St. Charles counties, and other county emergency officials.
Private and parochial schools in the area also are taking part.
The intruder scenario that Washington School District administrators participated in was written by School Resource Officer Casey Hill. The district’s other SRO, Doug Tollison, and Chief Ken Hahn also were present.
“I don’t want to get into a lot of details, but it was a really good exercise and included using maps of the buildings,” Mahon said. “We broke out into groups with the high school and middle administrators in one, the elementary principals in another, and another with the central office staff because these types of situations look different in different buildings.”
The scenario was timestamped with different events occurring at the various times, he explained.
“As a group we discussed how we would react to the given events,” he said. “Most of what was discussed focused on the building level, in the heat-of-the-moment responses.”
Next, Mahon said, there will be a follow-up exercise with just the central office administrators to discuss the district’s communication plan and how to deal with the aftermath of a crisis situation, including talking to the media, parents, staff in other buildings.
“We also plan to have a scaled-down version of the tabletop exercise for one of our community-wide meetings,” he said.
Mahon said communication is critical during and after a crisis situation.
“It’s so important to get accurate information out and in a timely basis because we have teachers and students who travel between buildings, and if there was an issue at one school, we need to be able to alert them,” he said. “Obviously getting information out to our parents and the media is important too, and of course all of this has to happen as events are unfolding and it’s never easy.”
At last month’s Washington Safety Committee meeting, Franklin County Emergency Management Director Abe Cook and Union School Resource Officer Kevin Anderson shared information regarding a collaborative Google Docs database.
This shared system will include contact information, maps, school building layouts and emergency operation plans for all school buildings in both Union and the Washington area, and can be updated instantly. It also can be accessed instantly.
The information would only be accessible to emergency personnel and school officials and could be accessed from a smartphone.
School officials are currently working on getting all of the district’s information in the database and working with other schools to do the same.
The district also is revising its emergency operations plans in response to safety inspections conducted earlier this year. The next round of safety inspections are tentatively scheduled for January.
Additionally, drills will be conducted throughout the school year for different emergency situations, including earthquake, fire, lockdown and tornado.
The lockdown drill focuses on both exterior and interior threats.
Following each drill, participants are asked to complete a short after-action review.
Safety always has to be the forefront of everything we do, Mahon said.