SWATARA TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — Many Midstate schools begin classes at the end of August, including the Steelton-Highspire school district, where the focus Friday was making sure everyone is prepared for the worst case scenario: a gunman in the halls.
Ahead of the new school year. police are making sure their officers are ready by holding active shooter training at Steel High. This is the first time first responders have held an active shooter training in Steelton-Highspire, and after Friday, they said they do feel prepared for a real-life situation.
“Practicing and preparing is always the right thing to do,” Swatara Township Police director of public safety Darrell Reider said.
Multiple agencies are involved in training: Swatara Township and Steelton police, as well as Steelton and Central Dauphin school districts.
“It’s important for us to work together,” Reider said.
Reider said that collaboration is critical in real active shooter emergency. More agencies mean faster response times, which end threats faster and save more lives.
Fire and EMS crews also go into the school building now, as part of a new rescue task force. These crews are unarmed, so they are typically accompanied by at least one officer.
“While somebody is in there bleeding, we want to get them first aid as quickly as possible,” Reider said.
Reider said the training is designed to be as realistic as possible. Actors pose as suspects officers hav eto engage with and as injured victims EMS teams must help.
Reider said it is about getting first responders in the right mindset: it needs to feel like an emergency.
“You actually have blanks that are being fired,” he said. “When that gunfire starts going off, and the officers start going in the building and seeing people lying there that are injured, pleading for help, it really gets your heart rate going, even though they know it’s just an exercise. It’s really important for our officers to go through something like this, to get exposed to it, so they might know what they would expect in a real-life situation.”
Training is not just to help police. Reider also wants this to reassure the school community.
“As a school district leader, this really puts my mind at ease,” Steelton-Highspire superintendent Mick Iskric said. “Schools should be safe. They should be spaces where kids are here to learn in a safe environment.”
Training does not end with this one session.
“[We] look at what we did, and learn from any of the mistakes,” Reider said. He added they also learn from active shooting incidents around the country, including the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
Police also work to prevent emergencies like an active shooter.
“We do a lot of things behind the scenes to try and make sure that this never happens to begin with,” Reider said.
Still, they said they will be ready at a moment’s notice.
“Stop the killing and stop the bleeding and save lives,” Reider said.
Swatara Township Police said the department is planning similar active shooter trainings with the Central Dauphin School District. They will also be working with Steelton on those as well.