WEST ORANGE, NJ - On Tuesday, Aug. 20, from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., Liberty Middle School will be the scene of the largest mock shooter drill ever mounted in the state of New Jersey.
The list of participants in the drill, spearheaded by West Orange Police Sergeant John Morella, is staggering. The West Orange Police Department, police departments from Essex, Passaic, Morris and Hudson counties, the Essex County Sheriff's Office, the Essex County Office of Emergency Management, the New Jersey State Police; the Defense at Picatinny Arsenal and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, along with the U.S. Federal Air Marshals; the Department of Homeland Security, St. Barnabas Medical Center, Monoc and University Hospital; and more than 100 parents, students and school district employees will participate to make the drill as realistic and educational as possible. Picatinny Arsenal, Rutgers, Montclair State University and Seton Hall University will all be filming the event.
West Orange Mayor Robert Parisi said, "The protection of our young people is our highest priority. Unfortunately, as we've seen in recent years, no school is immune to the possibility of an attack. This is an especially important drill because it increases our effort to provide safe and secure buildings for our students."
The ultimate goal is for not only the township of West Orange and its school district to learn how to handle such an unfathomable crisis, but for the drill to be used as a tool for law enforcement agencies, medical personnel, and other towns throughout New Jersey and the country. Morella reached out to outside agencies and DHS is funding the $140,000 project, which comes at no cost to taxpayers.
The West Orange School district has recently updated several of its security measures and Interim Superintendent Jim O'Neill said, "We are proud to offer Liberty Middle School to law enforcement to hold this active shooter drill. The building is new and provides opportunities for a variety of scenarios. The grounds are expansive and can accommodate the many hundreds of participants and audience members expected. It is also an opportunity for the West Orange Board of Education to test our emergency management and communications plan for its level of effectiveness, and make adjustments if necessary.”
Chief of Police James Abbott noted, "In law enforcement, we are constantly training and preparing to respond to all different types of scenarios. This coordinated drill helps officers from multiple jurisdictions learn how to work together by establishing a standardized response that involves all parties responsible for the care and safety of our children. We will do everything with the resources we have to achieve our goal."
The Alternative Press of West Orange will be on hand to cover the exercise beginning at 8:30 a.m., along with other local, and perhaps national, news sources.