Preparing for the worst
Two area school districts got an idea last week of what it would be like if there was a shooter in one of their schools.
On Wednesday, Aug. 29, the Weyauwega-Fremont School District was the site of a mock crisis drill.
That morning, staff from the W-F District and the Manawa School District participated in the drill as part of their inservice.
“The training was a realistic event that gave a perspective to the community as to what the SWAT team would do if there was an active shooter,” said Scott Bleck, the W-F district administrator
Sgt. Todd Rasmussen, of the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Department, is the commander of the Waupaca County SWAT Team.
“We appreciate the opportunity to come train with you,” he said. “The officers get to train with 300-some actors – you.”
Rasmussen said an active shooter grabs a weapon and starts shoots indiscriminately.
Sometimes, the shooter might be after a specific person, but often, the shooter is not, he said.
Active shooters cannot be reasoned with, Rasmussen told the two school districts, as they do not plan on coming out alive.
“And, like we’ve seen in schools, they know the schools – often better than law enforcement,” he said.
During the Aug. 29 drill, members of Waupaca’s County’s multi-jurisdictional SWAT Team went from room to room in the high school.
That was after the staff from the two districts had gone into classrooms, where they learned via an announcement that there was a crisis in the school and they were now to go into lockdown.
Doors were closed, and the sound of the officers going from room to room could be heard.
Upon entering a classroom, officers shouted, “Get down on the floor. Hands facing up.”
They asked if anyone heard gunshots, if they knew who the shooter was and then if the shooter was in that particular room.
Rasmussen said law enforcement must immediately engage with an active shooter to stop the threat.
Officers are trained to get into a building as soon as possible and to bypass the wounded and dying.
“I know it sounds cold,” he said, “but they have no option. They will go directly to the sound of gunfire.”
Their mission is to stop the threat.
Once they do that, their mission changes to one of rescue, Rasmussen said.
“A lockdown isolates the threat and assists in the evacuation and accountability. Every class should have a roster,” he said.
During last week’s training, the staff were evacuated after each room had been searched.
They walked down the hall with their hands in the air. Upon returning to the middle school cafeteria, many talked about how real the drill felt.
Bleck said the district feels comfortable having a plan in place and was pleased to carry out the drill, not only with the staff of the W-F district but with the Manawa School District as well.
Rasmussen said the W-F district approached the sheriff’s department about doing the drill and then invited the Manawa district to also attend.
He believes the W-F district was the first one the SWAT team ever practiced in, and that was about 12 years ago.
Since then, the team has done mock drills in various schools throughout the county.