TERRE HAUTE —
Educators who were gathered at Woodrow Wilson Middle School on Tuesday afternoon heard something they hope they never hear again in a school setting — gunshots.
Fortunately, it was a “hostile intruder” drill involving local police agencies, and the shots the educators heard were blanks. Several elementary and two middle schools were involved.
“It was so loud … and so terrifying, even though they were blanks,” said Dori Dial, a Davis Park Elementary teacher.
She found the drill helpful and believes she’ll be better prepared if such an incident were to occur. “I think it’s wonderful the corporation and law enforcement have put this together,” she said. “It’s something that unfortunately is a reality in our world today.”
The drills occurred at Woodrow Wilson and Sarah Scott middle schools, but teachers and staff from eight elementary feeder schools also were present. Students were dismissed early at those schools.
The drills were a cooperative effort involving the school district, Vigo County Sheriff’s Department, Terre Haute Police Department and Indiana State Police.
At Wilson, the mock scenario involved a man entering the school and asking for the principal; he then began firing shots (blanks), using a 12-gauge shotgun. Some of the teachers who observed the drill covered their ears. Others jolted.
They also watched the response of law enforcement, who “killed” the active shooter.
After the short drill, those attending went to the Wilson auditorium to watch the video “Run, Hide, Fight,” about how to survive an active shooter event. Police provided further instruction on how to respond, and there was a question-and-answer period.
“We want to give them tools and education that will let them survive in those minutes until law enforcement arrives. That’s our goal,” said Sgt. Joe Watts of the Indiana State Police.
The intent in conducting a drill is to provide a realistic scenario, he said. Some of the teachers and staff have never heard gunshots.
“We’re trying to create a chaotic atmosphere to get people to know they can handle it, calm themselves down and react to their training,” he said.
Ray Azar, director of student services, said about two months went into planning the drill. The goal is to provide similar drills for all VCSC schools during the 2013-14 school year.
“We want them [teachers and staff] to think about ways they can prevent or delay an active shooter in the building by simple things, such as locking doors and other tactics which we will discuss with them that could help hopefully save lives,” Azar said. “For every four or five seconds you delay an active shooter, you may save four or five lives. That’s our whole goal, if anything like this happens, to make the consequences as minimal as possible. Even one fatality or injury is one too many.”
While the teachers were in the auditorium, a second active-shooter scenario took place, with very little notice. In the drill, police shot and killed the armed intruder.
“We pray this never happens in Vigo County, or anywhere,” said Superintendent Dan Tanoos, “but if it does, at least we are better prepared to deal with it.”
Dial believed the drill was helpful, hearing the gunshots and seeing how police would respond. But it did make her think about school shootings that have occurred at places such as Sandy Hook Elementary. “It’s sad,” she said.
Tina Horrall, Franklin Elementary principal, believes the training is “invaluable.”
But she also finds it sad that school shootings have made such training necessary.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or email@example.com.