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High school to be overrun with emergency personnel

November 17, 2010 - When driving by Oxford High School this Friday morning, Nov. 19, do not be alarmed if there are numerous emergency response vehicles in the parking lots.

It is not an emergency. It's a practice one -- an armed intruder simulation as part of the "Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools" grant awarded to Oxford in conjuncture with Lake Orion and Clarkston schools, by the United States Department of Education and Office of Drug Free Schools.

Starting at 8 a.m. and running until 10 a.m., OHS staff and a select group of students, along with Oakland County Sheriff's, Oxford Village Police, Fire, EMS and representatives from Lake Orion and Clarkston Community Schools will practice protocols for response to an emergency situation during the non-school day at the high school.

"You are going to have a simulation of an angry and deranged person, who is going to be in here and play the role of an expelled student," said Todd Dunckley, OHS Assistant Principal.

Dunckley explained how it was going to happen.

"I've got people starting in some places and I am going to have them move where they are going to end up, in my eyes, would be as close to the real thing as possible in the state of somewhat panic," Dunckley said. Armed intruders will be played by trained Oakland County Sheriff deputies.

Dunckley said by the end of the simulation, some people will be "killed or wounded."

As part of the school safety procedures, a school lock down will be ordered, meaning so students, staff, or parents will be allowed to enter or leave OHS during the time period.

District officials have stressed all students participating will be safe.

"Everything is monitored by the Sheriffs's Department and administration," said Deputy Superintendent Nancy Latowski. "There is nothing that will put them in danger."

According to Dunckley, the simulation will not only test the school's emergency protocol, but it will also test how well they secure the building, staff and students.

"We have never made the 9-1-1 call for that, so it will be interesting to see how that plays out with our emergency services to see if it is functional," Dunckley said.

Dunckley would also like to see how well the staff responds in this type of situation. "It's easy on a calm day, but in a panic situation, is it effective?"

Nonparticipating staff will be positioned behind caution tape to watch.

In order for the whole scenario to play out in the time frame allotted, Dunckley said, "it would be cut from scene to scene."

Once the scenario is played out, students, staff and visitors will be debriefed to go over what worked, what didn't work followed by a question and answer session.

Latowski said school counselors will be on hand if students need them.

"If the students are upset by the incident, which can be quite realistic, we have counselors and special education teachers who will be present as well," she said.

The district has alraedy learned some things.

According to Dunckley, the Homeland Security officer said some of their emergency language needed to change and a protocols needed to be written for the safe and organized dismissal after the event.

The simulation is part of a $250,000 grant received in November 2009. Each high school will receive a test in one of three areas: armed intruder, pandemic incident or chemical spill.

Clarkston Community Schools hosted a chemical spill situation, while Lake Orion Community Schools hosted a simulation on flu outbreak at Orion Oaks Elementary in March.

"One of the things you are going to see up front is that nobody is truly 100 percent protected against something like this," Dunckley said. "It's going to frighten some people, even though you know it is a simulation. You go, 'wow, it does really happen in the real world and it could happen here.'"

Andrew Moser is a staff writer for the Oxford Leader.
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