On Friday morning, was filled with local law enforcement and emergency personnel, district teachers and high school students who were ready to take part in a drill organized by the district’s safety committee.
The drill helps local safety personnel and first responders practice the appropriate procedures to follow in case of an emergency, much like a fire or tornado drill. Intruder drills or practices for lockdowns became necessary after the Columbine shootings in the 1990s, said George J. Balasko, a member of the safety committee and president of the Brecksville-Broadview Heights Board of Education.
The presence of the student volunteers makes the experience more realistic for the responders and district staff, Balasko told the students as they gathered in the school’s gym at the start of the morning. Balasko said nearly 200 high school students volunteered to take part in the drill Friday morning, the first day of their spring break.
The volunteers aren’t told what the day’s scenario is, Balasko said – and neither are the responders. That way, everyone acts as if it is a real emergency. The only people who know what’s going on are Balasko and the students who have parts as victims or suspects in the scenario. Most of the parts were played by members of the high school’s drama club.
On Friday, those students acted out a scenario where three students brought weapons into the building. The performances of the students added to the intensity of the drill, as they yelled for help and acted out against the responders, who had to figure out the best way to handle each situation.
The drill tests not only the local responders, but also a number of communities nearby, Balasko said. The “injured” students are even taken to local hospitals.
“It is a community-wide drill,” Balasko said.
These kinds of drills really raise awareness for all the participants, from the students to the responders, said David E. Volosin, the executive director for the Society for Prevention of Violence. Volosin was at the drill simply as an observer.
“It’s nice to watch these because it’s a proactive way of dealing with it,” Volosin said.
“It could happen anywhere,” he added.
After the drill, the district’s safety committee and the various forces can see if there were any trouble spots and make any necessary changes to their procedures. For example, Balasko said, after the first drill in 2009, the district decided to more clearly label doors in the schools.
Balasko said the drills help local police learn how to respond quickly to such incidents, but that the best ways to prevent tragedies from happening is to be aware and to communicate with others. He said that friends, parents and teachers should talk to people if they sense that something is wrong.