More than 500 Klamath County School District staff and about 50 first responders from around the Klamath Basin found out what it would be like if the worst happened at a school: an active shooter situation.
The KCSD, Klamath County Sheriff’s Office, Klamath County Fire District
No. 1, Klamath Falls Police Department, Oregon State Police and
other first responders in the Basin came together to run a safety drill at Henley
High School on Thursday afternoon. The situation? Staff – including
teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, custodians and others
– acted as teachers and students in classrooms while a pair of “shooters”
invaded their school. Law enforcement officers fired blanks in the hallway,
moving throughout the area of the drill. “We wanted to make this as realistic for them as
possible,” said Steve Johnson, Klamath County School District Risk Manager. “We want them to experience the anxiety, the chaos, the confusion. ”
Some staff were outside the classrooms when the drill
started. They acted as frightened students running in the
hallways and, in a few cases, acted as victims.
Meanwhile, classes locked the doors and sheltered in
place, in practice with the Standard Response Protocol, KCSD trains with for these situations.
“By being a student in the classroom, maybe you will help recognize or understand what they will go through, what you can do to help in a situation if you are ever confronted with something like this,” Johnson said.
First responders secured the hallways, cleared the building and evacuated everyone while helping and providing medical care to those simulating injuries. The whole drill took about an hour and a half, followed by a Q&A review afterward.
“Dealing with 500 to 1,000 people during a scenario, we don’t get that opportunity to train like this,” said Klamath County Sheriff’s Office Patrol Sgt. Randy Swan, who organized the exercise. “We showed our guys exactly how many people that means and what they’re going to have to do.”
During the review, district staff brought up issues to be addressed, from how best to shelter in place, to what to do if the shooter comes into their classrooms. Some asked about concealed carrying of a firearm, which law enforcement did not advise. All KCSD schools are gun free zones.
Klamath County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Steve Lewis recommended other ways for staff to defend themselves and their students without use of a firearm.
“Look around you. There’s tables. There’s chairs. There’s fire extinguishers. Just make the determination: Not me, not my kids, not today,” he said. “Take action and put your whole heart and soul into it.”
The exercise Thursday brought many questions to the forefront. Now the district can begin addressing them. Administrators will meet next week to review the drill and Johnson encouraged staff to discuss it in their buildings and with safety teams.
“There’s not one right answer. We need to spend time and see what the best thing is for our district, for specific schools and for specific classrooms,” he said. “It needs to be a discussion piece and something to talk about and something to say, ‘What do we need to do?’”