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Preparing for the Unspeakable

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 51 Issue: 6 Dated: June 2003 Pages: 74-79
Jim Weiss; Mickey Davis
Date Published
June 2003
6 pages
This article describes the planning and enactment of a simulated police, firefighter, and school response to a shooting crisis at a school in St. Petersburg, FL.
The simulation was a joint effort by the St. Petersburg Police Department's Tactical Team and the SERT Team, Pinellas County Schools, the school administration of John Hopkins Middle School, Pinellas Park High School's Criminal Justice Academy, and the St. Petersburg Fire Department. The plan was to conduct an actual lockdown drill and rapid response scenario during school hours while classes were in session. Planning and preparation for this action training began 6 months prior to the enactment. The lockdown drill's goals were to secure the campus; use rapid response of the police to stop the threat; evacuate students, faculty, and staff; bus transport a small sample of students and reunite them with their families at a local sports field; use TAC unit call-up to search the campus and negotiate with and apprehend the shooter; and coordinate rescue of the injured. Preparation for the enactment is described, including notification of parents and the community about the drill. The drill proceeded as planned, and several lessons learned will be incorporated into future emergency strategies. A panic attack by one of the students exposed the need to have a mental health professional available for such emergencies. A sufficient number of school buses should be available for a rapid transport of the students from the campus. Further, teams should have access to a master key or keys for closed doors, since the school resource officer may be off campus or incapacitated. Noncompliance may also be an issue, especially with older high school students, who may attempt to use their own cars and ignore what teachers or the police tell them to do. Student cell phone use is another issue, since parents may be called as soon as a lockdown is in place; this could interfere with communications.