Mock school shooting held in Grafton
Students and staff learn about school safety policies
GRAFTON –An anguished cry breaks the eerie silence as a SWAT team made up of local law enforcement methodically works their way down the hallway between Grafton High School and Century Elementary.
“Pleeeeease help me, I’ve been shot, Pleeeeease!”
The student is Grafton senior Payton Schaan, playing the role of an injured student in a mock shooting last Thursday at the Grafton High School.
Schaan is covered in fake blood, lying face down on the floor. She lifts her head to plea for help once more as the officers go by.
“You’ve got to help me, I’ve been shot!”
In cover formation the officers go by. They can’t help Schaan, at the moment. All they can do is stay on guard, because the shooter is on the loose. They work their way down the hall, checking for an unlocked door that may contain the shooter.
The dramatic scene was the first of two simulations meant to evaluate the efficiency of the Grafton School District, local law enforcement and emergency responders in the event a real situation involving a shooter might play out in the future.
The first scenario at the Grafton High School involved a young male in his 20’s who came to the school to kill his girlfriend for breaking up with him. The second scenario at Grafton Middle School that afternoon involved a parent upset with his child.
There were no students in the building at the time of the simulations with the exception of those who portrayed victims. The exercise went through three distinct steps.
After the shooter entered the school, the faculty and staff went through the process of locking down and securing the school. Then law enforcement including the Grafton Police Department and members of the Walsh County Sheriff’s Department secured the school, apprehended the shooter and cleared the scene. Once that was done, responders from Valley Ambulance and Rescue removed the victims and transported them Unity Medical Center where they practiced how to receive multiple victims at one time.
“It’s a good exercise for everyone involved,” Walsh County Emergency Manager Brent Nelson said. “It’s an opportunity for everyone to practice an emergency situation under more realistic circumstances. The hope is that if something does happen, they’re better prepared to react.”
As this drama played out, teachers, following lock down procedures, hunkered down behind locked doors. In a real case scenario, they’d be in the room with their students, but during the drill Thursday, they were alone with their thoughts.
As part of the lockdown procedure, teachers are to account for their students, keep their doors locked and not go out to help, or let anyone in.
Grafton High School science teacher Rick Eng took part in the simulation as a teacher roaming the halls in the wake of the shooting.
“The teachers are instructed not to open their doors for anything until the all-clear is sounded,” he said. “For some it was pretty nerve-wracking. Even though they knew who was outside their door, many fellow teachers told me they were very apprehensive and nervous.”
The simulation was facilitated through Wenck Associates of Mandan, an emergency preparedness consulting firm hired by Grafton High School.
“Wenck Associates is an engineering and natural resource company that also does emergency preparedness and safety training. We get requests from all over the state and other states to do this,” said Derek Hanson, who was in charge of Thursday’s simulations.
Hanson said Grafton conducted a similar simulation several years ago, but procedures have changed and evolved in the wake of several shootings including the massacre at an elementary school in New Town, Conn., in December, 2012.
“The mission has completely changed from what it was a few years ago,” Hanson said. “In the past law enforcement would wait until there was enough help or a SWAT team to arrive. Now, whether it’s in a mall, a school or whatever, it there’s an active shooter, the first officers there take care of the shooter first.”
According to Hanson, in the past, it could take up to an hour before law enforcement would assemble enough help and access the situation.
“A lot of damage could be done in that time,” Hanson said. “Now the philosophy is, even if there is only one or two officers on the scene, get in, get to the shooter and take care of him right away.”
Hanson said lockdown procedures have changed as well.
“Now we’ve learned that not only should we lock the front doors, but lock all of the individual classroom doors as well,” Hanson said.
According to Hanson, it’s also important that the classroom doors open inward to the classroom to make it easier to barricade the door from the inside should a perpetrator manage to break the lock.
Hanson said another important part of Thursday’s exercises was bringing in guns to make things more realistic.
“It’s like a starting gun and it shoots blanks,” Hanson said. “That gives people the opportunity to hear the pop, pop, pop (of the gun) in the hallway. A lot of teachers don’t know what a gun would sound like. Now they can say ‘I’ve heard that before,’ and know what it is.”
According to Hanson, the exercises achieved their purpose.
“It went very well overall. For the most part everyone followed their emergency operation plans,” Hanson said. “There were a few communication issues that need to be worked out, but that’s why we run these exercises.”
“It was a good training experience,” Grafton Police Chief Steve Kliniske said after the drills. “Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but the more training you do, the more you can identify your strong spots and your weak spots and improve on them in case this happens for real.”