February 27, 2013 - Goodrich-The smell of gunpowder in a school building is terrifying and the response to such a situation is critical.
On Feb. 20, more than 40 law enforcement officers from the Genesee County Sheriff's Department, Michigan State Police, FBI, Grand Blanc and Davison townships along with the City of Grand Blanc converged on the high school for an emergency response drill.
The training exercise simulated intruders in the high school building and featured law enforcement using blank ammunition in rifles going through the classrooms, offices and hallways. Students were dismissed except for about 30 young volunteers from the theatrical department—who acted as injured or those trying to escape a possible situation.
Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton assessed emergency response drills for the county schools following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn. He appointed assistant prosecuting attorney Jay Snodgrass to help lead the active shootng program.
High School Principal David St. Aubin coordinated efforts for the district.
"It's unnerving, in terms of the guns in the school buildings," said St. Aubin. "The school staff feels it's a difficult procedure, but as a professional development program, they need the training. The staff gets nervous, but that's what the response drill is designed to do. After they are done aspects are discussed."
St. Aubin said teachers and other office personnel are divided into two groups.
"One group works with law enforcement on how to deal with an intruder in the classrooms or hallways while the other group learns first aid and dealing with possible injuries."
St. Aubin said the district has completed simliar drills over the years.
"The biggest change is schools are doing the response drills," he said. "In years past there was no urgency like today. In addition, law enforcement is has made many changes in dealing with possible intruders—it's very realistic and great training for everyone involved."
The other buildings in the district, Reid and Oaktree elementaries as well as the middle school, will be having similar drills for their staffs.
Parents and other community members were notified prior to the drill in an effort to avoid confusion.
"There were many public safety vehicles in front of the high school during the drill," said St. Aubin. "That could prompt some panic if we don't make proper notification."
Scott Bogner, district superintendent, was pleased with the effectiveness of the drill.
"The response time is key," he said. "As real as this program is—nothing can prepare you for this scenario. The smell of gunpowder and hearing gunshots in the hallways, not to mention the screams, is hard to deal with. Our staff was excellent during the training—they understand the importance and magnitude of this program. In addition, the community was very supportive of the training. I've had zero negative response."