Multi-Agency Active Shooter Drill at Bluff Elementary School
by Alexander Lott
On May 23rd, a multiagency Lockdown Drill took place at Bluff elementary school. Law enforcement officers, the Bluff Fire department, Bluff EMTs and community volunteers coordinated with Principal Barbara Silversmith and her staff in a coordinated response to an active shooter scenario. The San Juan County deputies fired blanks in the school, and the “shooter”, a San Juan County deputy, fired paintball “bullets.” Staff took actions they have been practicing all year. Due to the live simulation, no students were involved in the drill.
Bluff Elementary School Principal, Barbara Silversmith, said, “The experience was stressful, but as a staff we kept our composure with the protocols we practiced throughout the school year. Knowing the layout of the school and the communication system we had in place provided us with comfort in knowing we were not alone.”
The drill was the result of months of interagency planning and collaboration. Bluff Fire Assistant Chief Gary Lichtenstein said, “We hope we never have to respond to this sort of incident, but we want parents to know that the school district, county deputies, and first responders are prepared for a fast and effective response.”
In the event of an active-shooter situation at Bluff Elementary, first arriving law enforcement officers will immediately enter the school to neutralize the shooter. Parents would be directed to go to the Bluff Community Center, where community volunteers will provide information as soon as it becomes available. Once the school is cleared, students would be evacuated onto buses and reunited with their parents at the Community Center.
San Juan Deputy Corey Workman coordinated the drill for the Sheriff’s office. He said, “It’s important to train in these scenarios, because these situations are never the same. Training makes it where our reaction becomes second nature. When we train, our minds are better prepared.”
Bluff Fire Chief Anthony Lott helped evacuate and apply first aid to an officer who’d been “shot”:
“I was particularly impressed by the organization and the teamwork of the BES staff and administration and of the different law enforcement agency members. It was inspiring to see them put their training into practice.”
The Bluff Elementary School Principal, Barbara Silversmith, discovered how the exercise revealed ways to improve, saying, “As a school, we did well following through with our normal protocol, which we have practiced. However, practicing with a realistic shooter, gunfire, and multiagencies brings in another perspective. We learned we need to make some adjustments to our protocols at the school level to increase safety for staff and students.” Overall, Ms. Silversmith was impressed by the coordination and cooperation of all involved: “We can come together as a community and create full cooperation for the benefit of keeping students and staff safe.”