LEWISBERRY, Pa. (WHTM) – A brutal exercise Friday in the West Shore School District tested reactions of students, staff, and first responders.
The district and police teamed up to train for an active shooter situation. Even though this was only a drill, the situation at times was intense.
A normal day was thrown into chaos: two actors, their guns loaded with blanks, stormed the front office of Red Land High School, immediately popping off several shots at the staff inside.
A faculty member called a fake number for the police and reported what she saw. That’s when it turned into a real exercise for responders.
“We kind of had a game plan in mind, but we didn’t over-script it, so it kind of developed as it went along,” Fairview Township police Chief Jason Loper said.
What script they did have quickly fell apart. After unloading several shots in the front office, the two shooters continued into the cafeteria where a class was staged and waiting.
Students were supposed to overpower one shooter there and hold him until police arrived. They did not, so both actors continued through the school.
Fighting back is option three in the school district’s strategy for dealing with active shooters: run if possible, then hide, and fight if the previous two are not possible.
“We want staff and students to have a situational awareness about what’s going on around them and then make decisions about what is safe and what is best for them,” superintendent Todd Stoltz said.
Those who could escape did so, running out of the building and across the school’s parking lots.
Others barricaded themselves in classrooms, locking doors, turning off the lights, and stacking desks and chairs in front of the entrances as about 60 cops swarmed the school.
“If something like this happened, we would have probably double the number of cops here today that we have,” Loper said.
Eventually, one actor was arrested on the second floor and the other took his own life in the library.
Then the triage began, with at least a dozen agencies involved, while officers evacuated the school room-by-room.
Buses took students to Cedar Cliff High School where they met up with their parents, and the district went through the careful reunification process they would use in a real situation.
“I was very happy with how I saw the officers responding inside the school, how they were interacting with students and teachers that were locked inside their rooms, and how we got them out safely,” Loper said.
It’s too early to know all that went right or wrong, he added, but police and the district say this will help ensure they don’t make the same mistakes if next time it’s not a drill.
“Let’s learn what works and let’s learn what we can change and do better,” Loper said.
ABC27 News was given exclusive access to follow both the shooters and first responders as they completed the drill inside the school.
In the next couple weeks, we will compile all the video to give an in-depth look at each piece of the process. Look for it on-air and online.Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download the ABC 27 News App and the ABC 27 Weather App for your phone or tablet.