Schools, first responders preparing for worst case scenarios

Schools, first responders preparing for worst case scenarios

The deadly school shooting in Oregon Tuesday served to reemphasize to local first responders the importance of preparing for active shooter and mass casualty scenarios in our community.

It’s not something you want to think about — a deadly shooting at a school – but since the mass shootings at Sandy Hook December 2012 there have been 74 school shootings around the country.

It can happen anywhere and at any time and that’s why the Spokane Public Schools want to be prepared.

“The reality is it’s not a matter of if it comes it’s a matter of when it comes,” Spokane Police Officer Jay Kernkamp said.

Kernkamp said the police department is preparing for worst case scenarios and to that end this last February they partnered with the fire department to practice how they would respond to a hypothetical active shooter scenario at a school.

“Those types of trainings are unfortunately becoming more and more common so that we can be prepared,” he said.

The entire department trains quarterly with specialty teams prepping each week. One of the few things police departments have changed is their response to an incident.

“Over the last decade law enforcement have, instead of having the traditional standpoint of containing, officers are now trained to enter the school and eliminate those threats,” Kernkamp said.

If someone does open fire, Spokane Schools has a playbook to help them in the process, with steps such as moving uninjured students out of the area away from potential harm and setting up a command center. Security supervisor Mark Howard with Spokane Schools says the district does nine drills a year with students – three fire and six crisis drills – which are required by law.

“We make sure the students have practiced the same routine and that we are following directions with the staff members,” Howard said.

But it’s not just about preparing for the ‘What If’ … the district has also beefed up security by installing additional security cameras and improving locks on classroom doors.

Howard says after tragedies like the ones in Seattle and outside Portland this week, the school district is always reexamining their polices.

“We do it organically sometime but this is something that in our world of security and law enforcement it never stops,” He said. “You are always assessing, even when awful things happen, and if we are doing them the best we can.”

Last year the school board voted to arm the district’s 14 resource officers. Right now the district is still in the process of negotiating with the union. Spokane Public Schools hope to have resource officers carrying weapons by next school year.