No students, staff or faculty members were present and there really wasn’t a gunman, but that didn’t prevent officers from the Glenwood Police Department from taking their “active shooter” exercise seriously last Thursday at Northeast Elementary School.
The exercise was an opportunity for the officers to prepare for a situation involving an active shooter in a school or another public setting.
Police Chief Eric Johansen said the drill was part of an ongoing preparedness program for Glenwood officers and wasn’t conducted as a reaction to the mass-fatality shooting last month at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“We actually scheduled this prior to the event that happened out East,” Johansen said. “It’s not a reaction, it’s something we commonly practice.”
The exercise was coordinated by Glenwood Police Officer Scott Burtch, who has completed formal training to be an active shooter instructor. Burtch said it’s important for all officers to be on the same page should they ever encounter a situation involving a gunman in a populated building.
“You want to see how you respond and how you react,” Burtch said. “If we don’t communicate and react the same, there’s a possibility that one of us will get hurt.”
Burtch said Thursday’s exercise wasn’t the first or last for the department.
“We’re trying to hit the different schools, just to get familiar with them,” he said.
Burtch said the Glenwood Police Department and Glenwood Community School District are working together in developing preparedness plans.
“We gave the schools a little presentation of what our response was and what to expect,” he said. “The schools are already doing a pretty good job with the lockdown drills and things like that. They’re on top of things.”
In an e-mail sent to parents this week, Glenwood Community High School Principal Kerry Newman addressed the issue of school “invasions” and “intruders,” noting safety is a top priority for the district’s administrative team.
“Our administrative team has also spent a great deal of time discussing issues of safety and working with local law enforcement,” Newman said. “We have a district safety committee that has met and are moving forward with recommendations for improved safety in each of the buildings. Every administrator will be approaching the issue of school shootings with their students differently as it is very important that the information and drills be age-appropriate.”
At the high school, Newman said three “lockdown” drills will take place between now and the end of the school year. The first one will be announced, the second and third drills will be unannounced.
“Each of the lockdown drills will be coordinated with our law enforcement partners and designed to learn and gain information so we can improve our efforts to keep our staff and students safe,” Newman said.
Mills County Sheriff Eugene Goos said deputies in his office have participated in exercises similar to the one conducted last week by the police department and more training is on the horizon. Goos said the sheriff’s office is working with the East Mills School District in a similar fashion to what’s taking place in Glenwood.