Cavalier County EMS runs drill at LAHS

The Cavalier County Emergency Management Services (EMS) along with Langdon Area Schools (LAS) staff held an emergency situation drill last Wednesday afternoon.

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Posted on 10/4/14

By Melissa Anderson

The drill, which was held at the Langdon Area High School (LAHS) was a simulation of a shooter situation, complete with blank bullets to create the sound of actual gunshots in the school. The only students present were there to simulate injuries that could occur during such an event. LAS released all of the students early so the school was empty of students besides those present as volunteers.

“This is more of an educational session. The more of these exercises you do, the better you get at it” Derek Hanson, the manager of the Safety and Emergency Preparedness division of Wenck Associates from Mandan said.

Hanson was the controller for the exercise and stated that Wenck offers a variety of exercises for schools, emergency services, and counties to have done.

This particular exercise scenario of having a shooter in the school is the most common exercise that Wenck provides to its customers.

“Statistics show that shootings occur most often at the high school level” Hanson said.

The Wenck Associates personnel presented hour long orientations for both faculty and emergency personnel.

Hanson said that the students did not need to be present for this drill because the teachers were receiving the training and would be able to, if such an event were to ever occur, give their students “just in time” training. “Just in time” training  is the method the teachers would use to communicate what the students must do during this type of event.

“We train the faculty to have that information and they will direct the students” Hanson said.

As far as how a community should respond during an emergency event, the directions are always the same. Stay away until the school administration says that you can come. The reason that the community and parents need to stay away is because it worsens the conditions for the emergency responders.

“What happens is all the parents and community flock into the school and they crowd and block the streets to the school. All of these people and vehicles are so congested that the emergency vehicles cannot come and go” Hanson explained.

As hard as it is to wait in these types of situations, parents must wait for the school to state when and where they will be able to come and see their child.

“That is probably one of the most important things, because if the community all comes in, we‘ve got problems.” Hanson stated.

The major steps taken during  the drill to simulate the scenario is of course the shooting, followed by the lock-down and calling of 911. During the lock-down, not only are the doors into the school locked but all the classroom doors as well.

Following the 911 call the Emergency Services respond. The police force creates a perimeter around the school to control traffic and also set up a command center. There is an entry team that is sent in to try and get a handle on the situation.

“Capturing all the steps that would occur, you would probably list over 200 steps” Hanson said.

Karen Kempert, the Cavalier County Emergency Manager and 911 Cooridinator, has had a plan for just such an event but felt that a full scale exercise would be beneficial.

“I think anytime that you have a plan you need to practice it” Kempert said.

The purpose is to see  what needs enhancement in all our plans again, whether it be EMS, the schools, law enforcement, dispatchers, no matter whose plan, we will all learn from this” Kempert continued.

The exercise isn’t just useful for the shooter scenario, the procedures followed by the school and the Emergency Services are relevant to other emergency situations such as hazardous substances or tornadoes.

“Anytime that you practice [a plan] it makes you more comfortable with it, so when the adrenaline is pumping you end up with a little bit of muscle memory so it’s not an adrenaline override”

This particular exercise was possible because of a Homeland Security grant that the Cavalier County law enforcement received for this year. Other schools in Cavalier county have been encouraged by Kempert to also have emergency exercises of their own.

“As horrible as this scenario is, it’s important to practice for the worse case scenario” Kempert explained.

The teachers, both high school and elementary school participated.

“It felt very realistic, hearing the gunshots, the screaming, etc. Although no one knows how a real emergency scenario would play out, any practice ahead of time can only make us more prepared and calmer” Carla Symons, the Health Careers instructor, said.

“This exercise was very beneficial for all the agencies to practice working together. I appreciate all the time and effort that was put into planning this to provide a safer community for us” Symons continued.

“I felt like this was a good exercise and it was good for all staff members to have the opportunity to discuss what would happen if an emergency situation was to occur” Derek Grahn, the Business and Office Education teacher said.

“I feel like most teachers should at least understand that something like this may occur, even if it is extremely unlikely. Having this simulation was a good way to get everyone on the same page. The important part is having a plan in place and keeping everyone on the same page” Grahn added.

“It made me realize how frightening the situation would be” Linda Hope, one of the LAHS science teachers said.

“It also made me realize how difficult it would be to keep the students quiet and to try to keep them from panicking” Hope continued.

While we can hope that this scenario will never happen in reality, being prepared for it is one step in the right direction for keeping the children who attend Langdon Area schools safe.