Local school districts received expert advice on how to keep their employees and children safe and how to buy time for authorities to respond, should a gunman open fire in a school building.
The advice was provided by state the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services during a conference Friday at the Gloversville Middle School. More than 800 faculty and staff members of the Gloversville, Johnstown and Wheelerville school districts, as well as various local fire and police personnel, attend the free training.
“We can’t reveal a lot about the details of the training since anyone wishing to do harm could potentially use that information,” Gloversville Enlarged School District Superintendent Michael Vanyo said in a news release. “I think we can all agree, in light of recent tragic events, training of this nature is an important step in addressing school safety.”
Fred Hauck, health, safety and risk management coordinator for the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Cooperative Educational Services, said the training gave schools “some ideas to consider when looking at their own safety practices.”
The training taught school officials what to do should someone breech the front doors of a school and get inside the building, and it also offered tips on what to do if there is an active shooter in the parking lot or outside of the building, said Officer Eric Johnson of the Johnstown Police Department, a participant at the training.
“It defined what law enforcement is looking at when there is an active shooter and it gave examples of how this played out elsewhere in the country, the time frames involved and what schools can do to buy themselves time for us to respond,” he said.
Johnson said he spoke to several teachers after the training who said the information was helpful. He noted that the Homeland Security training for schools differs from what is provided to law enforcement officials. That training is on how to neutralize a situation involving an active shooter. Johnstown and other police agencies undergo this type of training periodically; this was the first time Homeland Security offered training for local school districts, he said.
In an active shooter situation, buying time for law enforcement to respond is essential, Johnson said. “It about winning the front door. If you can stop someone from entering a building, that is the key. Exterior integrity is paramount for schools right now,” he said.
In most small communities, such as the Glove Cities, police can respond to an active shooter situation within two or three minutes, Johnson said. “If you can keep someone outside for two minutes, three minutes that is enough. There will be police cars there by then,” he said.
Rural schools, where response time is longer, will have to “come up with a way to buy themselves more time,” he said.
Vanyo said Gloversville’s safety policies and procedures are not new to the district; some have been in place for more than 20 years, long before Project S.A.V.E legislation was passed in New York state. He said Gloversville district safety personnel have been working closely with outside consultants to review and revamp district policies and procedures regarding school safety.
Current practices include regular meetings of district and building-level safety and crisis management teams, annual safety drills and regular communication with local police agencies and fire departments.
“The safety of the students entrusted to us, as well as the safety of our faculty and staff, is of the utmost importance. This training is just one step in a multi-faceted plan for improving school safety,” Vanyo said. “One thing is for sure, it takes an entire community working together and Friday was a great example of that.”