UNION, NJ – Township police, fire and EMS personnel, board of education administrators, school principals and vice principals, County Office of Emergency Management personnel, and township administrators came together last week to participate in a table top drill to review processes and procedures surrounding hypothetical acts of violence on school grounds.
The drill, facilitated by Fire Chief Michael Scanio, presented active shooter scenarios at a public school event and asked participants to discuss and identify immediate actions necessary, policies for communicating internally and externally, procedures for maintaining continuity after an incident, and how local, county and state agencies can assist and work together.
“I was approached by the Board of Education to assist them with doing something to help prepare them for this type of event,” said Scanio. “This type of pro-active thinking is something you don’t always see. Most times you see a reactive response after an event has happened.”
“This is a great opportunity to walk through a scenario together,” said Scanio, “within a low stress environment. There are no right or wrong answers.” Scanio asked participants to respond based upon current plans, policies and procedures.
The scenarios presented were plausible. All participants received the same information at the same time and there was cooperation from all entities and stakeholders.
Discussions centered around what notifications, and to whom, need to initially be made upon learning of a possible active shooter and how communication to the people attending the event is handled. Considerable time was spent discussing communication within the school, with law enforcement and other agencies, as well as the processes to get information to the media and township public information officer for dissemination to the public.
In addition to Chief Scanio, Administrative Battalion Chief Gregory Ricciardi and Battalion Chief Henry Sisbarro led the group through discussions on what procedures an emergency situation triggers and who is in charge of the situation, prior to law enforcement arriving.
“This table top exercise was a great first step in getting the schools and their employees to test the policies and procedures they currently have in place,” said Scanio. “The drill was well received by all who participated and even those who came just as observers. I am confident in saying that everyone in attendance learned something.”
“The Board of Education can now take lessons learned from this and adjust their policies and procedures to ensure that the safety in and around their schools is the best it can be at all times,” said Scanio.