Meridian Star

May 19, 2013

Drill to test school district and police response

By Brian Livingston / blivingston@themeridianstar.com
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Wednesday morning, law enforcement agencies will join emergency responders and Lauderdale County School District officials in conducting a live shooter drill at West Lauderdale Elementary School. Officials said the drill is to practice the procedures that have been agreed upon so that everyone knows their role if this worst case scenario ever becomes reality.

    "We have plans on paper but it is time to make sure everyone is on the same page," said Lauderdale County Sheriff's Department Chief Dep. Ward Calhoun. "We will be deploying personnel from a number of agencies and then afterward we will get together to see what we did right and what needs more work."

    The agencies involved in the drill include the LCSD, Meridian Police Department, Lauderdale County Emergency Management Agency (LEMA), Lauderdale County Fire Service, Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, Mississippi Highway Patrol, Mississippi Department of Transportation and the Lauderdale County School District.

    Randy Hodges, superintendent of the Lauderdale County School District, said the drill is to test the regional response and to improve interagency cooperation when responding to a major incident as an active shooter. Hodges said the drill is not in response to any recent incident.

    "This is so we can be proactive in what we need to do in case this happens," Hodges said. "I hope we never have to use this but if we do, it will be a comfort in knowing everyone involved knows what to do and when to do it."

    Hodges said communications between all the agencies involved will be key and one of the main focal points of the drill. He said as far as the school district is concerned it is the children who come first.

    "We will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of the children," Hodges said.

    The drill will include a lockdown of the building and students to try and deny the "shooter" access to potential victims. Law enforcement teams arriving on the scene will deploy into response teams and go into action according to their role in the overall plan. Once the school has been secured the children will be evacuated to a safe zone off the school grounds.

    Hodges said the school district has met several times with the various agencies involved in planning the exercise. He said he has deferred much of the procedures to be used in the drill to the law enforcement agencies.

    "This is their area of expertise in responding and nullifying the threat to the children," Hodges said. "Our role is to keep the children as safe as possible until the threat has been dealt with and then get the children out."

    Hodges said bulletins will be issued to parents of the children who attend the school to make sure they are aware of the upcoming drill.

    "We don't want somebody to get excited and think there is a real problem at the school," said Hodges. "This is only a drill. But at the same time, a very serious drill."