Preparing for the worst

Local students learn how to respond in the event of a security threat

Students throughout Warren County are learning to contribute to their own safety.

In the past three years, local police and the Warren County School District have teamed up to present standard response protocol training to students and staff more than 50 times, according to Quality Assurance Supervisor Boyd Freeborough.

The district’s standard response protocol has four main parts — lockout, lockdown, evacuate, and shelter.

For three of those — lockout, evacuate, and shelter — students will be given plenty of instruction as whatever events unfold. There isn’t much they have to do other than stay with the group and follow directions.

In a lockdown — locks, lights, out of sight — a danger is inside the building.

Students are authorized to leave the building and should do so if they get an opportunity to do so safely, City of Warren Police Sgt. Brandon Deppen told Sheffield Area High School’s freshmen on Thursday.

If the threat is close and the exit is not, students are to get into a room as quickly as possible, lock the door, turn the lights out, and, at the least, stay out of sight. “A locked door is a time barrier,” Deppen said.

If the threat is serious –an active shooter, for example — and there is not another safe way out they are to secure the door as well as they can. Deppen suggested tying belts or cables to the door handle or closing mechanism, and pushing desks and tables against the door. “The longer we can keep that person from you, the better chance you have to survive,” he said.

Further, if someone gets the door open, students are encouraged to use any weapons at their disposal and throw things at the attacker’s head.

“My favorite is a fire extinguisher,” Deppen said. “You’re going to take that person’s vision away from them” and be left with a heavy, metal club.

As a last resort, students may swarm an attacker that gets into the room. “We’re talking about you fighting for your life,” Deppen said.

The police response to an attack at a school will be swift and aggressive, Deppen said, so students were warned against holding any kind of weapon if they do successfully overwhelm the attacker. “We may think you are the shooter,” he said.

The students practiced the barricade portion of a lockdown on stage with equipment that is taken from school to school for training. “This is your classroom,” Deppen told the 10 volunteers. “You can use anything in your classroom to protect yourself.”

He gave them a practice run. After resetting, he gave them 40 seconds to make it so that he could not get in. Students used belts and computer cables to secure the door, piled desks and tables, and tied the cords to the teacher’s desk.

Deppen forced his way in, but it took him a while, and students were waiting for him with folding chairs, books, and other heavy objects.