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Drew Central Crisis Drill Consideed a Success

October 27th, 2007 by

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Drew Central High School took part in a recent crisis response drill to see how well students, faculty, and emergency responders would react during a lockdown of the school that involved intruders on campus with weapons. The drill was designed to help school officials and responders plan for a worse case scenario.

Stephanie Eubanks, sophomore EAST student developed the idea and requested the help of Bill Horn, Drew County Coordinator for Office of Emergency Management. The plan originally was set for July but due to funding was delayed until last week.  Students and faculty were briefed only on the minimum points. They were told when it was to take place but nothing as far as what type of threat would occur.

The crisis scenario involved two robbers fleeing the scene of a local convenience store where they made their way onto the Drew Central campus after a high speed chase. Entering the front door, the intruders were able to hide in separate classrooms used for after school tutoring.

Principal Frank Ferguson watched the intruders on the campus monitors then immediately notified the campus through the all call system which enabled teachers and after school students on campus to hear the all call and follow the lock down procedures.

Assistant Principal Jack Knight also monitoring the cameras saw where the intruders went before safely evacuating several groups of students on the south end of the building. He continued to monitor the campus and communicated to the command center. The police were also able to tap into the school monitor’s.

Cathy Edmonds, counselor and after school coordinator was in the process of helping secure one end of the building by notifying teachers when three seniors, Bo Sanderlin, Anthony Gardner, and Mark Fletcher barely rescued her from one of the intruders. The trio had earlier escaped through a window but saw Edmonds too close to one of the intruders and made the decision to go back inside.

Eubanks stated, “With all the school violence, I thought it would be good for the faculty and administration to see what this was like in case of a real disaster. This way we would be a step ahead.”

Cindy Luper, math teacher and after school tutor, would have received an award for her bravery if this was a real situation. Luper made a quick decision to get her students out through a window as one of the intruders had positioned himself across the hallway from her door.

Emergency responders from the Southeast Emergency Medical Services, Drew County Office of Emergency Management, Monticello Police Department, Drew County Sheriff’s Office, Monticello Fire Department, and University of Arkansas-Monticello campus police took part in the drill. Employees from Monticello School District and surrounding county emergency response teams were asked to monitor the school officials and Monticello/Drew County responders to evaluate their effectiveness. Members of the Drew Central High School EAST program video taped the crisis scenario from all angles in order to help the responders use the tapes in training.

Carol St. Johns, Monticello High School secretary said, “I was really impressed with how well our SWAT team got in the school and was able to overtake the intruders. I feel much safer having experienced this.”

During a debriefing with participants including the students, Police chief Robert Rosegrant and Horn asked how the participants felt about the situation. One or two of the students would have liked to been taken hostage to see what the responders would have done.

Ferguson said “I was very impressed with what I saw and want to congratulate the responders on how professional and efficient that seemed to be. These guys did an outstanding job and they should be congratulated.”

Barbie Eubanks commented, “I too was very impressed. I see where we need to make a few changes on our part to be better prepared and this exercise has really opened by eyes.  Watching the drill unfold really makes me appreciate and admire what our first responders do and how dedicated they are to keeping Drew County a safe place.”

Knight, who works closely with the officers in his role as assistant principal, complimented the responders. “I’ve worked with 5 of the guys on the entry team who are in competitive shooting and are really good shots. It was interesting to see how the kids and staff reacted. I was impressed with the coordination of the EMT, law enforcement, and hospital. You know police and teachers are in public service because they want to make a difference and I know every one of them would put their lives on the line for our kids,”   Knight said.

From the exercise director’s standpoint, I thought the exercise was very well planned and thought out with the best participation we’ve had in the 4 years I’ve been coordinator,” Horn said.

Horn explained this is the first year that counties were mandated by the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program, and has required more planning and involvement than previous years. The process began last spring with a series of workshops and planning conferences, involving stakeholders from law enforcement, administration, school officials, students and many others.

The greatest challenge is, after taking the lessons learned from this training and exercise is to develop those into a multi-year training and exercise plan and become prepared for any manmade or natural disaster. I want to thank Stephanie for coming to me with this idea and her concern for better safety at schools. We need to applaud all the students who participated and the involvement of the EAST program,” Horn added.

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