The first full-scale intruder-lockdown drill at Tahoma High School helped school officials, students, law enforcement and other first responders learn valuable lessons, Principal Terry Duty said.
“As we train, we get better. And the better we are, the safer we are,” he said.
The drill was constructed around an armed intruder who entered the school. The “intruder,” played by a Tahoma High School staff member in disguise, entered the school shortly after 9 a.m. and ignored orders to stop. Office staff immediately called for help by dialing 911 and the school was placed in an emergency lockdown. Though the drill was announced in advance to students and staff, it still provided an air of realism.
Within minutes, police officers arrived at the school’s east entrance and made their way into the building. They began searching for the suspect, locating him on the second floor where they engaged and “neutralized” the intruder. As more police arrived, they were organized into teams that searched the building to ensure that no other intruders were present. Firefighters and medics also were on the scene and were called inside the building to treat and evacuate wounded “victims,” played by police Explorers.
The drill was created by Maple Valley Police, the King County Sheriff’s Office, and Puget Sound Fire District. Planners worked closely with the school district and the City of Maple Valley.
Duty said staff responded quickly and efficiently when the lockdown began. Classroom doors were closed and locked, blinds drawn, lights turned off, and any student or staff in hallway or common areas took shelter in the nearest classroom. The drill successfully tested the school’s ability to quickly sound an alarm, lock the building and locate the suspect, using some of the many security cameras placed throughout the school.
The entire drill took less than an hour. In a post-drill meeting, police, fire, medical, and school staff talked about what worked and where improvement is needed. Not everything went perfectly and modifications will be made, but everyone agreed that the exercise was time well spent. Superintendent Tony Giurado offered his thanks to all of the participants.
“Thank you to our partners: police, firefighters, and city. It means a lot to us,” he said.
Following the drill, many of the police and first responders stayed on campus through lunchtime to talk to students and answer questions. A King County Sheriff’s helicopter landed near the east entrance to the school and students were invited to get a close look at it and other emergency equipment and vehicles.