Local School Prepares For Emergency Situations - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

Local School Prepares For Emergency Situations

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SALISBURY, Md. - Active shooter training is typically for police officers, but now more and more schools are taking part, preparing for the worst in light of the Sandy Hook tragedy.  St. Francis de Sales in Salisbury held a training workshop to teach students and staff how to handle an attack.

"I believe across the nation our schools have had somewhat of a naive approach to this," said Rob Costante, principal of St. Francis.  It's a feeling shared by many people after 26 children and adults were gunned down at an elementary school in Newtown, CT.  Elementary schools were once thought to be an untouchable safe-haven, but now, the public is realizing the place where children learn reading, writing, and ''rithmetic is just as vulnerable as anywhere else.

Principal Costante says the training session at St. Francis has been in the works for a few weeks.  January 16, 2012 wasn't necessarily the ideal day for the training session.  It was a cold, rainy Wednesday; the kids were in the middle of exams, faculty was preparing for Catholic Schools Week activities, everyone was busy.  But knowing tragedy can strike at anytime, Costante says "as a school leader, I didn't feel comfortable waiting any
period of time," so the sooner the school was prepared, the better.

Both law enforcement and school officials didn't want to go into very much detail about the exact strategy for fear that too much information could leave the institution vulnerable, but they did mention one major part of the plan is making everyone feel more comfortable with having police officers around.

"We are having the children interact more and more with law enforcement.  Having our officers available to be asked questions of, and to exchange information back and forth," said Salisbury Police Chief Barbara Duncan.

This familiarization was actually the idea of the police force, a step St. Francis' Principal Costante fully supports,

"That's one of the things that I think was a great suggestion by the Salisbury police before we had this drill take place where the kids had the opportunity to see some of their vehicles, got to see what they would look like in their apparel for the day, to see some of the weapons, so it would lower the anxiety, give them a comfort level."

Costante mentioned, some parents pulled their children out of school on days law enforcement came to show some of the weapons, but over all, the response has been positive.  Everyone involved agrees; they don't want students and faculty to feel they aren't safe within the school's walls.

"Our schools should be places where our children can come and learn.  They should be learning environments, they should never be police states," says Chief Duncan.

When asked about the greatest lesson learned from the day's training, "preparedness" was the over arching result.

"The level head usually makes better choices, prepared heads usually make better choices," says Principal Costante. 

"We are so much better prepared to handle a mass or critical incident on this campus and in other, we can relate to other institutions as well, says Chief Duncan, "we're so much further down the road than we were hours before this drill, it's remarkable."

These training sessions don't stop with St. Francis, Salisbury Police say they're also reaching out to daycare centers in the area to see if they want to work on safety plans like the one at St. Francis.

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