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Gering schools stage lockdown drill
September 26, 2013 Jerry Purvis   

Read more by Jerry Purvis
On Monday afternoon, Gering students were in their rooms, out of sight with the lights turned out. It wasn’t an actual emergency, but a district-wide lockdown drill to test the district’s preparedness for the real thing.

According to the district’s Standard Response Protocol, a lockdown is called with there is a threat or hazard inside the school building. Students and teachers move away from sight and maintain silence. Teachers also lock the classroom doors, take roll and account for students, and wait for first responders only to open the doors.

“Drills like this have been done before by individual schools, but this one is district wide,” said Freshman Academy Principal Kraig Weyrich. “With school shootings happening more frequently, we need to protect the safety of the kids.”

Weyrich, who chairs the district’s safety committee, said the schools coordinated the drill with Gering police and fire departments, as well as the emergency response unit in Scottsbluff. Administrators used their emergency radios to tie in with those first responders.

“Students and teachers were aware of the drill and procedures so they’ll know what to do when we announce the lockdown,” he said. “It’s like the fire drills everyone remembers.”

In addition to gauging preparedness, the drill tests how the communications process works between the schools and first responders.

“It was a good exercise because we didn’t really know what to do if that were to happen,” said Gering High School junior Mikayla Kreider. “We had a lockdown last year and nobody knew what to do so everyone kind of scrambled.”

Senior Katie O’Boyle called the exercise “surreal” as something people usually see on television with a school emergency. “This makes us more aware of why we do exercises like this,” she said. “It makes us feel safer now we know what to do.”

The district safety committee will meet on Sept. 26 to discuss how the drill went and what can be done to improve responses in the future. First responder personnel will also attend to report what they observed.

“Hopefully, we never have to use it for real but you just never know,” Weyrich said. “That’s why we practice those things. Safety is our top concern for our student population.”

He added the students have been helpful in understanding the importance of these emergency drills and take them seriously.

Other emergencies outlined in the Standard Response Protocol include a lockout, where there is a threat or hazard outside the building. Business goes on as usual inside the building, but access in and out is restricted.

A third category is shelter, where the building serves as a shelter when the need for personal protection is necessary. That would include times of severe weather such as tornadoes.

The fourth category is evacuation when students and staff need to move from one location to another.
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