Practicing protocol

Law enforcement helps conduct lockdown drill at Warren Area High?School

Police from various agencies gathered Thursday at Warren Area High School for a lockdown drill.

Warren Area High School practiced its lockdown protocol on Thursday.

At 10:30 a.m., an announcement was made that the drill was starting and gave a description of an intruder in the building.

The security doors closed. Teachers throughout the building took quick looks into the hall to make sure there were no students trapped outside, then closed and locked their doors, turned out the lights, and got out of sight — “locks, lights, out of sight.”

Numerous law enforcement officers from the Pennsylvania State Police, Warren County Sheriff’s Office, City of Warren Police, and Conewango Township Police, participated in the event, learning the security measures and practices in the school. Police and district officials checked all classroom doors to make sure teachers were complying with the protocols.

During the drill, which lasted about 40 minutes, teachers talked with students about what to do in a lockdown situation, Warren County School District Supervisor of Quality Assurance Boyd Freeborough said.

The announcement included the intruder’s location, and one of the key points of discussion regarded staying or fleeing. While the drill did not allow students to leave the building, students were asked to think about how they might get out if the intruder were in another part of the building. Students were reminded of where they were to go if they did evacuate.

Through ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training that has been delivered to all district students for several years, students are used to the idea of barricading rooms against an intruder.

Students were asked to look for and think about items in their rooms they could use to barricade themselves inside and keep an intruder out.

If an intruder does gain access to the room, students are to “counter,” actively doing what they can to keep the intruder from harming them.

School officials added a fire alarm to the drill to see if students would leave their rooms. Because a real fire is much less likely than a fire-alarm-pull during a lockdown, students are told to stay put unless they see smoke and flames, Freeborough said.

During the drill, Freeborough repeatedly knocked on one classroom door to see if anyone would let him in. No one came into sight and the door remained locked.

The protocol for ending a lockdown is for police or school officials to unlock each rooms. Students and teachers are told not to unlock the door for anyone. So, as practice, at the end of the drill officials went room to room unlocking doors.

Freeborough said the drill went well. “All classroom doors were locked and secure. Staff and students were out sight going over procedures and were ready to counter when we released them,” he said. “No one left during the fire drill.”

He said the students and teacher in one classroom were so out of sight that the district and police officials who entered after unlocking the door did not see them.

The drill was scheduled long before the trio of threats made Tuesday at district schools. Those threats resulted in three suspensions and all three students being taken into police custody.

There will be another lockdown drill at WAHS in the spring. Freeborough said students will be given the option to evacuate during that drill.

Lockdown drills at all district schools will be held in the near future — “hopefully by the end of the month,” Freeborough said.