The Saratoga Sun -

HEM goes on lockdown

 

It is every school district's and parent's nightmare, an intruder with a weapon entering an educational facility where there are students.

Hanna, Elk Mountain, Medicine Bow (HEM) High School had a lockdown drill to prepare the staff and students for such a situation.

Thursday at 10 a.m., the office staff alerted 911 of the lockdown drill.

Law enforcement personnel from the Wyoming Highway Patrol, Carbon County Sheriff's Department, Hanna Marshals office and the Rawlins Police Department joined school officials in the lockdown drill.

Hanna Marshal Jeff Neimark started the practice lockdown after he talked to the school's front desk staff on what to do if an armed intruder got past the security area where a visitor first enters the high school.

"You are going to be the persons talking to 911, giving them a description, what he is wearing, what he is carrying, which direction he is heading and any information that surfaces-and do it from a safe position," Neimark said to the staff in the reception area.

In the next moments, a lockdown was announced over the public address system to the entire school, while another staff called 911 telling of the drill.

HEM was now in lockdown.

Lieutenant Rick Hooper, of Rawlins Police Department, was at the school to help Neimark and deputy Marshal Dan Starr go through the proper Standard Response Protocol (SRP) procedures, since he had been involved in this activity with other schools.

SRP is based not on individual scenarios, but on the response to any given situation. SRP has a specific vocabulary but allows for flexibility.

There are four actions that can be performed during an incident. When communicating these, the action is labeled with a "Term of Art" and is then followed by a "Directive." Execution of the action is performed by active participants, including students, staff, teachers and first responders.

Lockout is followed by the Directive: "Secure the Perimeter" and is the protocol used to safeguard students and staff within the building.

"Secure the Perimeter" is followed by "Locks, Lights, Out of Sight" and is the protocol used to secure individual rooms and keep students quiet and in place.

"Evacuate" is always followed by a location, and is used to move students and staff from one location to a different location in or out of the building.

Shelter is always followed by a type and a method and is the protocol for group and self protection.

These specific actions can act as both a verb and a noun. If the action is lockdown, it would be announced on public address as "Lockdown! Locks, Lights, Out of Sight."

Lockdown is a classroom-based protocol that requires locking the classroom door, turning off the lights and placing students out of sight of any corridor windows. Student action during lockdown is to remain quiet. It does not mandate locking outside doors. There are several reasons for not locking perimeter doors during a lockdown. Risk is increased to students or staff in exposed areas attempting to lock outside doors. Locking outside doors inhibits entry of first responders and increases risk as responders attempt to breach doors.

HEM High School was the first school in Carbon County School District No. 2 (CCSD No. 2) to do the lockdown safety drill this school year, but Encampment and Saratoga Elementary did this exercise last spring according to Jim Copeland, Superintendent of CCSD No.2. He said the district started using the SRP last year.

"We are trying to make sure everybody does what they are supposed to in these live drills, to see if there any gaps and for a school to see how it works," Copeland said as he walked down the halls of the school with law enforcement officials. "At this point we are giving it over to law enforcement and observe what they do."

The law enforcement officers knock on doors and call to the classroom on the other side that they are the police and to open the door. The protocol for a lockdown requires that under no circumstance should a door be opened. Law enforcement has a master key and will open the door. As an officer goes into a room, he identifies he is a law enforcement official, so a teacher or student knows they can come out from hiding.

After Hooper went to a few classrooms and tried to get a person inside to open the door, which no one did, he gave the opening of doors to Neimark and Starr. As required by the protocol, they identified who they were and started the evacuation.

Kevin Shue, of the Sheriff's Department, stood in the hallway until students came out of a room and then took them outside. All the students had their hands on their head.

Hooper said it is best for students and staff to exit with hands on head, because during an incident, it is difficult to know who is involved and who is not. Hands on head makes it extremely difficult for someone to get to a weapon on their body without attracting notice of the officers evacuating students and staff.

"There is an evacuation point and as teachers are leaving, they hold up either a green sign which means all students are accounted for in that class or a red one meaning they aren't," said Copeland. He said the signs are used in silence to keep all noise to a minimum and to help office staff and law enforcement know quickly if students were missing.

The organization that SRP was born out of is I Love U Guys Foundation. The name comes from the last text founder John Michael Keyes got from his 16-year-old daughter, Emily, just before she was shot to death by a gunman who stormed the Platte Canyon High School near Bailey, Colo. on Sept. 27, 2006. As a SWAT team moved in, the gunman, Duane Morrison, 53, shot Emily to death and then killed himself.

From this tragedy, Keyes started the foundation in 2009.

"We had him come out and be our guest speaker last year when we introduced this whole thing and this is one of two of the most used protocols in the U.S.," Copeland said."He is an amazing person."

"Not only is he (Keyes) great with the organization he founded, but he is to me, father of the century," Hooper said. "To be able to take a tragedy and make it into something positive ... ‑not only to schools, but he expanded it to businesses and government facilities."

Hooper said the staff followed protocol and the evacuation went smoothly.

He says it is up the school to pick their crisis plan. Law enforcement then follows that protocol. It is not law enforcement picking a plan for a school.

"It really helps having schools all having the same plan in a district," Hooper said. "Back in the day, before SRP, this school did something this way and this school did something this way. It was confusing to law enforcement."

Hooper said there is also an advanced protocol, where where students are taught about what can be used in a room if an intruder with a weapon gets in. He says the advanced shows weapons a person can use to defend themselves. Hooper said many victims in the Virginia Tech massacre had been shot in a crouching position, hoping just to not be found. He believes if an intruder does get in, there are steps that can taken to neutralize the intruder. This is what advanced SRP hopes to teach.

"With advanced, we are just trying to give teachers tools for the toolbox, because they are the ones that have to teach the protocol to their students," said Hooper.

Neimark was grateful for Hooper's insight and all the law enforcement that came in for the drill.

"I really want to thank all the law enforcement agencies that came out to assist. It was a great evacuation drill," said Neimark. "Everybody did everything right."

In case of an intruder getting past security at the front desk, Neimark's words have to be heartening to parents and school officials concerning HEM high school lockdown.

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