Rifle High drill part of enhanced security consciousness | PostIndependent.com

Rifle High drill part of enhanced security consciousness

Will Van Teylingen of the Rifle Police Department helps escort students from the front of the school to the football field during a mass casualty crisis drill which was held at Rifle High School Friday.
Christopher Mullen |

In addition to be being valuable practice for law enforcement, faculty and students alike, Friday’s mass casualty drill at Rifle High School was a chance for Garfield School District Re-2 to showcase recent safety improvements.

The drill was kicked off with the school’s panic button, which automatically calls dispatch and notifies the principal and the district. When police and EMTs arrived, the School Gate Guardian security system provided a record of all visitors in the building. For the sake of the scenario, the officer playing the shooter entered through a side door, but in reality there are locks and alarms on all external doors and visitors must enter through the office.

Thanks to a Federal Mineral Lease District grant, these features are standard throughout Re-2. School administrators are familiar with the incident command system, school resource officers follow the latest tactics and students have plenty of chance to practice.

“Those kids practice fire safety, lockdowns, evacuations, so in the case of a real emergency they have a really good idea of what to do,” said Theresa Hamilton, director of districtwide services. “Only good things can come out of exercises like this. We had a great turnout of kids, staff and emergency services and I think everybody learned a lot.”

“This was an interactive effort with Grand River Health and the school district and it went very, very well,” said Rifle Police Chief John Dyer.

Around 50 to 70 students participated in the drill, some playing roles of wounded students who were attended to by police and fire personnel and others as those being evacuated from the building.

“And then they were taken to a ‘reunification area,’ where the parents were playing roles as well,” Dyer said.

Roaring Fork School District is also taking steps for security, with cameras in every school and more features on the way.

“We’re updating our facilities master plan so certainly safety and security will be a prominent part of that,” said Assistant Superintendent Shannon Pelland. “It’s something that’s in the forefront of our minds.”

RFSD is also contemplating its own large-scale drill later in the school year, and has plenty of smaller events planned in the meantime.

“We’re doing more training on response to crises now that we ever have in the past, with all of our staff,” Pelland said.

Local law enforcement are active participants in drills and training throughout the county. Their experience extends beyond schools to mass shootings and incidents of all kinds, and although they’re not ready to share their whole playbook with the public, they’re helping districts improve emergency policies.

The “I Love U Guys” Foundation, which draws its name from the final text 16-year-old Emily Keyes made to her parents before she was killed during the 2006 Platte Canyon High School hostage crisis, has assembled Standard Response Protocol, which challenges some old tactical assumptions by favoring evacuation over sheltering in place under certain circumstances.

“It used to be sitting in classrooms and hoping the person doesn’t come in there, but now we’re saying give yourself a fighting chance and get out,” explained Glenwood Springs School Resource Officer Brian Larison.

Larison and his fellow resource officers are in the schools every day in an effort to educate students and help them feel safe.

“We make our presence known to the kids that the police are here to help and to protect their lives and property,” he said. “We don’t live in a perfect world. In the unfortunate eventually that something happens, we’re going to do as we trained and the best we can to make sure everyone’s safe.”

Rifle Citizen Telegram editor Heidi Rice contributed to this article.

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