Springettsbury Township Police Chief Thomas Hyers called discussions on school shootings a tragic conversation today's educators must have.
He gave a presentation on the topic during the Central York School Board earlier this month, giving some details about the "active shooting drill" law officials will hold at the district's high school on Friday, Oct. 11.
The school district has agreed to be the site for the drill coordinated by the township police with participation from various law enforcement and emergency services, including the local police and fire departments; local, state and federal emergency management agencies; state police; the FBI; ambulance companies; and local Quick Response Team.
The goal of the drill is to practice how educators, law enforcement and emergency services would respond to a school shooting incident to save lives, stop shooters and treat the wounded.
"Tragically, active shooters have become a part of society," Hyers said. "We're concerned about when, where it will happen and are we prepared."
District students are already scheduled to have early dismissal at 11:30 a.m. Oct. 11 because of a teacher in-service day. This is the first time for this type of shooting drill in the township, Hyers said.
How it will work: For the drill, two officers will play the roles of "active shooters" who intrude into a school. They will use red guns, or firearm replicas, as real weapons will not be used on school property, Hyers said.
The district will recruit teachers, parents and high
school students as volunteers for the drill. Teachers and students will simulate class settings at the time of the shooters' intrusions.
Parents will participate in the reunification process, where emergency responders will set up areas for parents to meet their children as students escape the shooting scene, Hyers said. All volunteers will be shown how to participate in the drill, he said.
Hyers declined to say how many volunteers will participate in the event, as emergency responders would have to determine the number during the drill.
"Whenever we do drills, the officers' safety is paramount," Hyers said. "But for this drill, student safety is paramount and teacher safety is paramount above the officers. There is no risk to them."
Springettsbury police officers will alert neighbors about the drill and about alternate travel routes around the drill scene, Hyers said.
An important lesson: District Superintendent Michael Snell said it is a "sad day" when school officials have to talk about being prepared for school shootings.
However, the lessons learned from the drill will help students know how to survive wherever they go, as violence could happen in colleges and work places, Snell said.
Superintendents from local districts are being invited to observe the drill, he said.
The chief said the school district and all law enforcement and emergency responders will be evaluated by the Pennsylvania South Central Task Force, which leads an "all-hazards" emergency preparedness program addressing planning, prevention, response and recovery for events that exceed local capabilities, according to its website at www.sctfpa.org.
A report on the drill will be presented to the district two to three months after the event, Hyers said. Information from the drill could be used to help local businesses and shopping areas develop procedures for response to mass shootings, he said.
Hyers said planning for the active shooter drill began shortly after the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, where 20 students and six adult staff members were killed.