COLTON Shortly after the entire student body was dismissed early for winter vacation on Friday, the Colton-Pierrepont Central School was placed on lockdown.
Countless law enforcement officials from various departments stormed into the building in full uniform, barking instructions at one another to try to catch the supposed perpetrator.
Despite the intensity, loud banging noises and faculty and staff hiding in their classrooms with the doors locked, Friday afternoon was simply a previously planned active shooter drill.
The drill, which took place from noon to 3 p.m., was led by the New York State Police.
Faculty and staff gathered in the school cafeteria before the drill began to find out their assignments. Some would act as teachers, some as students and some as themselves.
Members of different law enforcement groups were assigned to be role-playing gunmen, as state police teams scurried throughout the building searching for the intruders in a safe, efficient way.
There are different exercise participants. You (the staff) are the players, as well as the law enforcement officers that will be entering the building today. They have no prior knowledge of what the scenario is. We will get a telephone call from somewhere in the school and I will initiate their response being the dispatcher, said state police Sgt. Chad Niles. So they will be fed the information as I get it or as they report it in.
All of the law enforcement officials who entered the building to hunt down the mock intruder were led by members of the state police called controllers to make sure everything went as planned and to assist in giving extra life-saving tips.
For nearly two hours, the law enforcement officials searched the entire building, looking for the gunmen while also discovering ways they need to improve for an actual event.
The drill was also meant for faculty and staff to be completely prepared for a potential real threat in the future.
The ground rules; just remember, through all of this its going to be loud. Theres probably going to be some pretty scary things that you might hear. Just remember, through all of this, whatever is happening today, its not real. Its not really happening, Mr. Niles said. It is the best way to figure out how things work in this type of situation and how we can improve.
All of the law enforcement officials involved in the drill were unarmed and were only holding plastic guns and other fake weaponry.
While some schools in St. Lawrence County have done active shooter drills before, Friday was a first for Colton-Pierrepont.
The combination of Sandy Hook and a lockdown incident in March certainly made us increase our awareness of safety and one of the recommendations of the safety team was to have an active shooter drill, school Superintendent Joseph A. Kardash said. From what I could see, all of our classrooms looked locked and secure... It seemed pretty successful to me, but Ive already heard a dozen suggestions of what we could do better, so obviously its a useful exercise.
When the drill was wrapping up around 2 p.m., Sgt. Niles noted that he could not yet give a full assessment of how everyone did, but was happy with what he could make out.
Mostly (the assessment) is generated by time. ... Schools usually do a half day where the students are released and then the second portion of the day is reserved for the exercise. Normally we try to run them within a three hour period, Mr. Niles said. We dont do any of these exercises with actual students present. I think there may be some parental concerns with that. They may have some anxiety issues with having their kids involved in an actual exercise of this nature.