Lincoln County active shooter drills reveal security issues in schools

Saturday, February 1, 2014 | 6:07 p.m. CST

TROY — Just in case the unthinkable occurs, authorities in Lincoln County want school teachers, staff and students to be ready if someone with a gun enters the building.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office has conducted active shooter drills at 13 schools since August. Lt. Andy Binder said the program has helped develop new policies for how teachers and police respond to threats.

The exercise is an example of active shooter response training and is part of a school program established by a new Missouri law.

One of these drills took place Wednesday at Troy Buchanan High School, with three men armed with shotguns and semi-automatic rifles storming in from three different doors. Teachers herded students into classrooms and locked doors as the first blank shots rang out.

Still, when officers arrived about three minutes later, many of the students had been "shot." Minutes later, an all-clear announcement came: The "shooter" had been taken out.

The drill was over.

"It's brought up serious questions such as 'If you hear shooting down the hall, do you risk opening up a door when you're not sure who's there?'" Binder said.

English teacher Melissa Surber had five students hiding in her classroom when someone shook her door and was able to get in. She said all she could think about was that people had been relying on her to keep the students safe, and she had failed.

"Thankfully, it was a simulation," she said. "Now I know it's not enough just to get the door closed. I have to pull and make sure it's not going to open again."

Binder said briefings after previous drills had revealed other problems. At one school, callers couldn't dial 911 to get help; a 9 had to be dialed to get an outside line.

The school contacted its provider, and the feature was changed.

Amanda Preston, a senior at Troy Buchanan, said the realism of the drills affected students emotionally.

"The first time I did one, the tears were real, and I had to call my grandma," she said.

But Colin Nelson, a math teacher, said the drills were necessary.

"Teachers are supposed to be the ones kids are looking to for help, and we want to be able to make a rational decision," he said.

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