Ask an Official: Officials discuss local school safety, response training
This week’s featured question was submitted for both Merrill Police Chief Corey Bennett and MAPS Superintendent Dr. John Sample
The question reads:
“What are we doing locally to assure our students are safe in our schools and trying to prevent a tragedy hitting close to home? People say things like a school shooter doesn’t happen in small towns, like people think we are immune, and that is just not true and wishful thinking! Do our local police departments train on a regular basis for these types of incidents? Is there specific or specialized training for our officers and school staff to train together? How about the officer who is specifically stationed in our schools, does he go through any sort of specialized training? Thank you so much for sending this to whoever would have the answers, Its a horrible thing in itself to even have to ask these types of questions. Thank you to everyone who plays a role in protecting our children! God bless you all!”
Answer as given by Chief Bennett-
“First, I want to point out a commonly misconstrued concept in the question. The word prevention was used and while we would all do nearly anything to prevent something horrific from happening, we are largely response driven organizations. We respond to the threat as well as to investigating the possibility of a threat. Prevention is a much larger issue which, I believe, leads to deeper questions in our value systems, our culture, and our society in general. That being said, we have and will continue to conduct training in the community with the aim at reducing victimization or mitigating the number of victims in a violent incident, as much as possible. More on that subject will follow.
“Local law enforcement and emergency responders absolutely train for such an incident. Is it enough? I don’t believe we could ever get “enough” training for such an event. That being said, we have to balance our training with day to day operations and make sure the community is served as well as prepared. On the subject of preparation, I will share a glimpse of some of the things we have done without revealing too much.
* We have trained in various environments and buildings within our community for familiarity and tactical awareness. This includes schools, office buildings, healthcare settings, and commercial/industrial settings. We do this with our partner agencies because we are all likely to respond to such an event together.
* We have and will continue to spend a great deal of time and treasure obtaining weapons, armor and equipment specific to addressing this issue effectively.
* We have trained with local EMS in the concept of Rescue Task Force teams which usher in EMS teams under our guard in order to extract and treat the seriously injured from areas still deemed to be a potential threat zone.
“Our School Resource Officer (Mark Heckendorf) has had specialized training and is a trained ALICE (Active shooter civilian response training; Alert,Lockdown,Inform,Counter,Evacuate) instructor, as are a handful of other officers within the City and County. ALICE is the survival strategy or mindset we have chosen to bring into our community for organizations wishing to prepare for such an event. Our officers and deputies have trained the ALICE curriculum within our schools (staff), local businesses, and local organizations for the past few years. The ALICE curriculum is consistent with the Homeland Security philosophy of Run.Hide.Fight. While this is not an answer to the crime itself, our greater hope for this training is to reduce the number of victims by giving them a survival mindset to act.
“We understand this is not an easy or comfortable subject to address or have a discussion about. Normal people shouldn’t have to think about the worst happening in front of them. However, we urge you and your families to have this discussion about what you would do if……….We believe these discussions prepare people to some degree. They get the mind thinking about a plan and if a situation occurs the mind doesn’t have to formulate a plan for the first time under the worst stress possible. As a result people react quicker and more effectively.”
Answer as given by Dr. John Sample
“Merrill Area Public Schools works cooperatively with local law enforcement, especially considering an event of this nature. The ALICE training certification our district employees maintain prepares us much better than the lockdown procedures of the past. Law enforcement personnel are trained to analyze these horrific events of the past in order to prepare our school district. Our school district benefits from what our police department and sheriff’s office has learned and shares their expertise with us.
“As educators, we also know that the most proactive approach we have is our relationships with our students. Making connections, providing students with the support they require and constantly being aware of our surroundings are advantageous to a safe learning environment. As a reactionary measure, ALICE Training, emergency plans and our partnership with local law enforcement combine to assist us in being as prepared as possible for such a tragedy.”
If you have any questions about this subject or are looking for resource material, feel free to contact us or your local law enforcement agency. Take care of each other and be safe!”
Have a question or concern you would like to address? Simply send your question or concern to email@example.com along with an indication of which entity your question or concern pertains to. Current participants are the Merrill Police Department, Merrill Fire Department, Tomahawk Police Department, Lincoln County Administrative Coordinator Randy Scholz, Merrill City Administrator Dave Johnson, Merrill Area Housing Authority Director Paul Russell, lincoln county clerk chris marlowe and merrill area public schools (MAPS) superintendent Dr. john sample. Please note: Those who submit to the ‘Ask an Official’ feature remain anonymous.