ECS holds surprise lockdown drill

Taylor PardueStaff Writer

March 24, 2013

Elkin City Schools tested the preparedness of two of its schools Friday with a random, unexpected lockdown drill.

Elkin Elementary School did not participate.

The drill took place at approximately 8:15 a.m. on Friday morning, according to John Altemueller, head of ECS’s Critical Incident Response Team. The schools were taken out of lockdown status roughly 10 minutes later. Parents were alerted following the drill via the school’s automated alert-now system, informing them nothing was wrong and that it was just a drill.

School superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe said the school system and Elkin Police Department worked in conjunction to test the high school and middle school’s readiness in the event of an intruder. No one but Chief Monroe Wagoner and Altemueller knew of the time or date of the exercise.

Wagoner contacted the school system following a scheduled drill in January to discuss doing joint drills with his department.

“What we tried to do was emulate, basically, a real situation of a lockdown and to check to see that our teachers, staff, and our students responded along the lines of what we asked them to do in case of a lockdown,” Bledsoe said.

Bledsoe said he was informed by Altemueller of the drill 20 minutes before it began to let him know nothing serious was wrong.

Bledsoe and Altemueller said the practice went very well.

“All things went according to what we have basically requested of our teachers and our kids to do during the lockdown drill,” Bledsoe said.

“I was pleased. Students and teachers did exactly what they were supposed to do. I was most impressed,” said Altemuller.

Altemueller said Elkin Police were on site during the lockdown to advise the schools on any problems they saw and to alert school officials to any areas that could be improved. Bledsoe said that during a lockdown police were the only people walking around, as every staff member was locked in a room.

“During a lockdown every person is in a lockdown area, including the administrator and the administrator’s assistant, so the police responsibility is to go through the halls and to determine where a potential threat may be,” he said.

Altemueller said the police were happy with the response and saw nothing of great concern. Bledsoe added that the police had several new officers that were not as familiar with the schools as others, which allowed them to practice with the layout of the buildings.

“There are always little things that you see that you want to tweak. There was nothing that glared out,” Altemueller said. “They were pleased with what we had done and pleased with how things went. I think they were pleased with their officers’ response time coming in this morning. I think it was deemed a success,” he added.

Altemueller schools have added instructions for teachers and staff that may be caught out in the hall away from their offices when the lockdown began. He has instructed custodians and others who could be in the hallway to duck into the nearest custodian closet, staff bathroom or classroom to seek shelter when a lockdown begins.

With that come additional logistics. Each classroom is given a green and red card, and the teachers are required to slide under the locked doors to indicate if a room is safe or in danger to a police officer.

As police walk the halls to detect and eliminate any danger, they can check off which rooms are locked and secure while moving on to look for the threat.

Cards have been added to staff bathrooms, closets, custodian closets, “anywhere somebody might be so that it gives some indication that there’s a person in there and they’re OK,” Altemueller said.

Altemueller said Elkin Elementary did not participate due to the need for attention by the Police Department on their first joint training session. Had the police been stretched across all three schools they might not have been able to effectively observe the schools’ drills and offer advice. Altemueller did not rule out that a drill may occur there as the school year winds down.

Bledsoe said the schools were planning more of the undisclosed drills, saying there would probably be two scheduled drills and two random ones, in the 2013-14 school year. Dr. Bledsoe said the school system has to get to the point where a lockdown drill is as common and well-practiced as a fire drill.

“In today’s era, what we’ve got to start doing on a more dedicated basis is having lockdowns so that we make sure that our students know what to do in the case of a real emergency, or a critical emergency, situation,” Bledsoe said.

“It really went well,” he added.

“I’m happy with the ways things went,” Altemueller concluded. “I pray we have to never have to know for sure, but I’m happy with the way things went.”

To contact Taylor Pardue call 336-835-1513 ext. 15, or email him at tpardue@civitasmedia.com.