Howell Schools hosts training exercise; familiarizes students and personnel with vital emergency procedures

002This news article first appeared in the April print edition of The Main Four.

By Social Media Editor: Cassie Bondie

Since 2010, there have been over ninety recorded school shootings in the United States. Thirty of these shootings took place in the past two months.

Doing the math, one state in fifty should not account for more than two of these events, if they’ve even encountered any at all. And yet, five of these recorded shootings took place in southern Michigan. Of these given shootings, three involved fatalities.

In the past three years, southern Michigan alone has lost eight students to school shootings. And these are only the tragedies recorded, which doesn’t necessarily encompass the truth of the epidemic. Statistics don’t include the fatalities that take place off-campus, or deaths that are brought about by other means of violence in schools.

Howell Public Schools, in light of these recent traumatic events, decided to use the vacant Latson Road Elementary School building as a setting for a training exercise to help students and local medical service agencies learn how to handle drastic emergency situations. The event took place on March 12-15, and students in the Firefighting Academy, EMT classes, and Health Occupational Studies were asked to participate, as well as other students in the student body who chose to volunteer their time.

One of the major hopes when it came to the involvement of the students was for them to achieve a better understanding of the job of security personnel, and to take to heart the seriousness of the situation. Sometimes, what we see in our mind or in the news cannot match up with reality.

“I think I learned the amount of stress police officers and EMT’s go through to make sure the wounded and survivors make it out alive and to take the shooters down,” says senior Britney Winters, a volunteer at the event. “If the training exercise ever becomes a real situation at our school, I feel like the students need to know that the first thing you are going to want to do is either panic or be the hero…what you should do is relax and hide until the police come to help you.”

Much of the organization for this event has been the work of the district’s new Safe-Schools Coordinator, Mr. Patrick Sidge. Development for the project has been underway since the fall.

“My role was to work with the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department and help coordinate this exercise since this is our building,” explains Mr. Sidge. “Howell Public Schools is actually hosting the exercise and we’re working with the Livingston County Sheriff’s Department, as well as all the law enforcement, firefighting, and EMS units throughout the county.”

Perhaps the most useful opportunity given for the training was the use of the Latson Road Elementary School building, which has a complex layout that assisted personnel in learning how to navigate school hallways quickly and efficiently, even if they have never been there before.

“With Latson Road elementary school being vacant,” Mr. Jason Schrock, Howell High School’s principal, explains. “It gave the district a great chance to offer the facility as a training ground for crisis training in the school setting. Mr. Sidge has been instrumental in pulling together the county-wide agencies and making sure our school staff and students are able to participate.”

The main purpose of the exercise is to put emphasis on preparedness in case an incident involving an armed intruder takes place at one of the public school buildings in the hopes of saving lives and avoiding injuries. Local police departments have been involved in similar training for about twelve years.

“We’re very confident that this type of an activity is what will save kids’ lives,” says Mr. Sidge.