Active shooter drills prepare school staff, police for the unthinkable

Tactical police officers sweep through Canyon View Middle School's main office during a scheduled "active shooter" lockdown drill and training exercise, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 8, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — A horrific shooting incident in a Florida high school Wednesday morning that left at least 17 dead and more than a dozen others injured has underscored the importance of being prepared in such situations. (See Ed. Note)

Along these lines, teachers and staff members at two Cedar City middle schools took part in “active shooter” training exercises designed to prepare teachers and staff for the unthinkable – but clearly not impossible – event of a school shooting.

Canyon View Middle School’s drill took place right after school Feb. 8. A similar exercise was conducted at Cedar Middle School early Wednesday morning, right before the scheduled “late start” of the school day and, coincidentally, just hours before the Florida shooting occurred.

In both training exercises, students were not allowed to be inside the building during the nearly hour-long drills. Parents and students were notified about the exercises ahead of time, police and school officials said.

Canyon View Middle School Principal Rob Wagner uses intercom during a scheduled “active shooter” lockdown drill and training exercise, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 8, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“This was our first time doing an active shooter situation, and we found it very revealing,” Canyon View Middle School Principal Rob Wagner said. “Even though we knew it was a drill, it really caused our adrenaline to go way up, especially when we kept thinking what if this were real and our students were at risk.”

Canyon View Middle’s exercise last Thursday began after several officers from Cedar City Police Department had secured the building and made sure there were no students still inside. Then the drill started with the sound of a series of gunshots – blanks fired from a rifle – that seemed to originate from one of the school’s nearby classrooms or hallways.

Wagner and other school staffers immediately went into action, telephoning dispatchers and using the school’s intercom system to notify the teachers about the situation.

“We are in lockdown. We are in lockdown,” Wagner repeated over the loudspeakers, taking care to add that the exercise was merely a drill.

Tactical police officers sweep through Canyon View Middle School’s main office during a scheduled “active shooter” lockdown drill and training exercise, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 8, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

A short time later, a tactical team of officers came through the school’s main office, asking bystanders to show their hands as they swept the area looking for the “suspect,” who was actually a police officer playing the role of the shooter. Approximately 15-20 minutes later, the drill came to some sort of resolution, and law enforcement participants joined with faculty members for a debriefing session inside the school library afterward.

“Our faculty had a really good discussion afterwards about what we would need to do differently and things we need to add to our safety plan,” Wagner said. “As educators it seems to always be in the back of our minds what could happen. It’s a hard thing; we don’t want to be doomsday, but at the same time we want to be prepared.”

Sgt. Jerry Womack of Cedar City Police Department also emphasized the importance of preparedness.

“We have to train for the worst-case scenarios and then hope we never have to use it,” he said. “It’s important for law enforcement, dispatchers and educators to work together so we know how the other is going to react.”

A Cedar City Police car is parked in front of Cedar Middle School during a scheduled “active shooter” lockdown drill and training exercise, Cedar City, Utah, Feb. 14, 2018 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“It allows us to work out the bugs using realistic training so we don’t make those mistakes if there is a real situation,” Womack added.

In an email sent out to parents before Wednesday’s drill, Cedar Middle Principal Bylynda Murray shared similar thoughts.

“While it is unsettling to think about emergencies happening to our children, frequent review and practice of emergency procedures at home and at school, will help everyone to be prepared,” Murray wrote. “Throughout the school year, students and teachers will be trained in emergency procedures and will be taught how to react, where to assemble and what to expect in an emergency situation.”

Both principals thanked the parents of the students for their understanding and support and said that anyone with further questions or concerns is welcome to contact them directly. They also thanked law enforcement officers and dispatchers for the work they do to help keep schools safe.

Murray reminded parents that in an actual emergency, the school’s primary means of communication will be through the “Remind” communication system, with a follow-up email sent to the contact provided in the parent or guardian’s PowerSchool account linked to their students.

“You can sign up for emergency notifications through Remind by texting @cedar to 207-358-3612,” Murray said in her email to parents. “ We also encourage you to check your student contacts, including all emails, in PowerSchool to ensure these are up to date and correct.”

Ed. Note: Information regarding the number of confirmed fatalities and injuries has been updated.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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21 Comments

  • DRT February 14, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    This is something that every school, and every law enforcement agency should do. It’s time consuming and expensive, but is worth it.

  • Real Life February 14, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    Looks like the “unthinkable”, happened yet again, today in Florida.

  • Striker4 February 14, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    It seems to be part of the daily routine around the country so just as well train all the faculty across the country

  • ladybugavenger February 14, 2018 at 7:43 pm

    I’m watching the news and I can’t imagine your child going to school and not coming home, ever. My heart breaks thinking about it. It’s evil. People’s hearts are evil and no law can stop it. People need Jesus.

  • comments February 14, 2018 at 7:50 pm

    the “unthinkable” is becoming a bit of a snoozefest– not for those affected directly, ofc, but for us hearing about it.

    i blame lack of morality in this society

    when i turn on netflix to relax and watch a film I should not be bombarded with hardcore porn scenes. this is a sign of the times

    this society is in decline. it isn’t guns. its that people simply don’t care for one another and have no moral direction. people are treated as commodities. its turning into an anything goes culture. no morality

  • mesaman February 14, 2018 at 8:19 pm

    If you want to get upset and angry that these shootings are all to frequent then call the WCSD superintendent and ask him what security and safety measures have been installed to protect our children, their teachers, and the school’s staff members.
    To those folks who have had to experience tragedy of the most severe kind, I wish peace and serenity. I will keep you in my prayers.

  • utahdiablo February 14, 2018 at 10:56 pm

    Metal detectors should be at all schools regardless of age of student and a armed security guard needs to be greeting anyone at the door or doors…..the olden days are far behind us folks.

  • Anon February 15, 2018 at 8:33 am

    Alright Washington County. Now it’s your turn. I want to hear the story about each and every school here doing this same kind of training and review in the next few months. This is important and, quite frankly, a brilliant idea on the part of Iron County. Let’s protect our children and educators by preparing them for these kinds of events.

  • Utahguns February 15, 2018 at 10:16 am

    “Oh, it’s those social media websites contaminating our children”…..
    or…”It’s the Hollywood movie industry displaying more sex and violence”…
    or…”It’s the breakdown of the family structure”…

    The right answer is probably all of the above, with the my addition of “This may be the expected evolutionary path of the human race”.

    Starting shortly after Thorazine was introduced, the United States went through a major social movement known as de-institutionalization, where large numbers of mentally ill patients were released from mental institutions to live in the general population. The institutionalization of the mentally ill (which population numbers were exceeding over 75,000 in 1960) was becoming such a tremendous financial burden on the federal and state governments, that lawmakers and big pharma driven medical groups decided it was better to release these patients into the general population with medications rather than house them.
    OK you say, “that takes care of the patients already on the radar, but, what about children growing up in society with mental issues?”

    Early diagnosis of ODD, ADHD, ADD and other so-called psychological “deformities” can help a substantial percentage of those inflicted, but, there are those that never get diagnosed, for whatever reason or stop taking their prescribed medications.
    Social isolation, poor housing, unemployment and poverty are all linked to mental ill health. So stigma and discrimination can trap people in a cycle of illness. The situation is exacerbated by the media.

    I don’t know what the real answer is because there are more than likely many factors associated with a general fix-all to the problem.
    Somehow I keep on coming back to the statement I made above…that “this may be the expected evolutionary path of the human race”.

    I sincerely hope that I’m totally wrong about this evolutionary path and I don’t profess to be able to supply any answers…because, I believe, the complete answer is beyond human capabilities.
    If we’re going toward the type of life that Aldous Huxley clearly describes in his book, “Brave New World”, then I hope I’m dead and gone before I experience that.
    All I feel I can do is pray for the victims of this rising violence, and hope that I, my friends and family don’t become victims ourselves.

    • theone February 15, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      You need not hope you’re wrong, you’re wrong on all counts. Brave New World is science fiction just in case you don’t know, and if I need to I can explain what that means.
      Lets start with the closing of these institutions. Absolutely had nothing to do with any financial burden, they were closed for the deplorable conditions and treatment of humans.
      After they were exposed for what they were doing to these disabled people our government did the right thing and shut them down by order of public opinion and outrage.
      These acts of violence have nothing to do with evolution and to even think that is part of the problem.
      Our Second Amendment is outdated and we need to address the laws for better gun control. The Founding Fathers most likely didn’t envision the idea of every Tom Dick and Harry to own a gun just to own a gun. They had an intended purpose for that Amendment and I’m 100% sure school shootings or just mass shootings, in general, weren’t part of it.
      So before you start crying about your pathetic right to own a gun is more important than the life of a kid, take a minute to examine what we can do to prevent this useless slaughter of innocent life. No one wants to stomp on your rights, but I would hope that no one wants this senseless madness to continue either. Comprehensive gun laws are what we need. I personally think outlawing weapons that have no value to the average citizen is a start. AR-15s serve no purpose in society other than Military combat.

      • comments February 15, 2018 at 1:37 pm

        It’s like you’re reading a page right from the leftist gun-control bible.

        There’s always been a lot of guns in this society

        Having a new mass shooting every other week is a new phenomenon.

        Easy access to assault weapons is part of it, yes, but I’d say dig a little deeper.

        I’d also disagree w/ a lot of those who say these shootings are only or primarily done by “the mentally ill”

        its a very complex issue

        • theone February 15, 2018 at 2:09 pm

          If you want to refer to rational thought on gun control as a leftist gun-control bible, then I accept it cuz gun control is needed.
          Of course, there’s always been guns, but the problem is access and types. Yes, it is a phenomenon for now or at least until we do something to prevent it.
          I will agree it is very complex and there isn’t a one size fits all solution, but ending access to assault weapons is a start.

      • Anon February 15, 2018 at 2:31 pm

        You need to be careful in your definition of Science Fiction. Many of the works that people refer to as Science Fiction actually fall more under Science Fantasy. While I haven’t read “Brave New World,” the best explanation I ever heard of telling the difference was that, if it deals with technology, then it is Science Fiction (think Star Trek) and if not, then it falls more into the realm of Science Fantasy (think Star Wars).

        I have never understood the thinking or logic behind “no gun = no violent death”. It does not make logical sense to say that a child will be more or less in danger of being killed by someone by banning guns, whatever their model. There are countless cases of serial killers that have done nothing more to a child than covering their mouth and nose and waited for them to suffocate (i.e. Oakland County Murders). We have cases of mothers drowning their children. How many innocent children are killed in vehicular accidents or even, as was the case not but a few weeks ago, hiking accidents? You may believe that our society’s moral standards are changing for the better, but I would put forth that they are not. Violence, glorified rape, body shaming, and many other things that are allowed to be thrust in front our children by parents from the entertainment industry absolutely have an effect on their behavior and personalities. Those things even have an effect on you, I dare say. The government has used these tactics as well in the form of propaganda films show to citizenry and soldiers to help bolster their resolve to kill an enemy. If you don’t believe that what you hear and see don’t affect you, try watching a movie with the closed captioning on, but muted. Ten to one you will not have the same emotional response that you would watching the movie in its entirety.

        As far as our Founding Fathers were concerned, they absolutely DID believe that every person should have the right to own a weapon. They had just won a war where they had used civilian weaponry (for the most part) to do so. They had just liberated themselves from a tyrannical government more concerned about collecting the Colonists’ money than caring for the Colonists’ needs. They had no delusions that power, in any form, can tempt even the best of men to do stupid and corrupt things. I would go so far as to say that they began to see the seedlings of how “professional politics” can poison a country. Their foresight in including this amendment so far towards the top (second only to free speech and religion) shows that they were aware that the time may come that the government may turn upon its citizenry and another revolution may be in order. Unfortunately, “forward thinking people” like you are playing into a corrupt government’s hands, attempting to convince others that it is for our own safety that we should give up our guns and turn to the government for our support and security.

        • theone February 15, 2018 at 3:25 pm

          Science fiction is an imagined future not reality. I never said anything about taking all your guns away, nor did I imply as such. I said we need to ban one kind of gun.
          I wondered how long it would take someone to shuffle in with the “people get killed in all kinds of ways gun or no gun”. No kidding my friend, but the premise is to eliminate one that has astounding and extreme results, ie: mass killings in seconds.
          Show me the sentence where I want you, me all of us to give up our guns, oh wait I didn’t say that. Sorry to disappoint. I own a gun which I use at the shooting range for sport.
          I’m not against the gun ownership, I’m against weapons that average citizens don’t need. The use of a gun in self-defense is rare and you don’t need an AR-15 if a time for self-defense should arise.

        • comments February 15, 2018 at 4:04 pm

          I’m not on the gun grabber bandwagon, but when people say things like “the ar-15 is not an assault rifle” I find it rather clownish. The gun was designed with the purpose of being able to kill people “effectively”. It’s based on a dedicated combat weapon with only subtle differences (from the m-16).

          The only question in my mind is how far outgunned should the citizens be by their own gov’t? I was surprised to learn during the whole Cliven Bundy debacle that the BLM has fully armored paramilitary division. Really, the BLM needs automatic weapons? Our gov’t gets out of control way too quickly. They can only push so far in an armed society before the citizens bite back. Some of you leftists on here are a bit naive to these things, i will say.

          • theone February 15, 2018 at 5:09 pm

            Us on the left are fully aware of our new and improved militarized law enforcement across the country. What I think is naive is how the right doesn’t recognize it’s them funding and giving permission for these out of control police.

          • comments February 15, 2018 at 6:34 pm

            The obama admin was pretty well on board with militarizing police… and expanding gov’t surveillance on citizens. this isn’t rly a left or right issue. it’s about ever-creeping, out of control gov’t power.

          • theone February 16, 2018 at 9:24 am

            Agreed

    • comments February 15, 2018 at 1:28 pm

      wouldn’t go as far as calling it an ‘evolutionary path’. I’d say it’s more just a product of a dysfunctioning society. Could also have something to do with the modern overconnected internet era. I remember people used to say the internet would bring about a new age of peace and cooperation– everyone would be talking a being friends to people in all these other countries, and it would be this wonderful thing. Hasn’t happened. People are a cliquish and tribal animal by nature, and I’ve noticed the internet reflects the worst aspects of human nature. The superabundance of online porn is another example. So it could be a product of this dysfunctional overconnectedness, that maybe ends up isolating more people than it connects. I remember when the columbine high massacre was a big deal. Hear about similar things now and you just kind of shrug your shoulders. I guess we’ll just have to get used to it, for those that aren’t already? Violent world.

      • comments February 15, 2018 at 1:29 pm

        *everyone would be talking with and being friends to people in all these other countries

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