What would happen if there was a shooting and hostage situation at Saxe Middle School? It is the worst nightmare in the minds of most parents, so the New Canaan Office of Emergency Management wants to be ready should it occur.
To that end, the OEM has planned a massive live training exercise.
On the morning of Aug. 8, 50 to 100 kids and teachers, New Canaan Emergency Medical Services, the Community Emergency Response Team, the Board of Education, the New Canaan Police and Fire departments, two members of the state police, two members of the Stamford police, three special agents from the FBI and members of the local media will participate in a drill.
During the drill from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., OEM Director Michael Handler said, the two Stamford cops would act as the bad guys, shooting assault rifles loaded with simulated ammunition -- like paint balls -- and taking students hostage. Police and other emergency services would respond to the scene, ascertain the situation and handle it.
The role-playing won't end there. A command center will also be established, and FBI and state police personnel would arrive. Reporters will ask questions as they normally would during an emergency. A triage station would be set up to care for those with injuries.
Handler said it will be a drill not only for the crisis itself, but also in the organization and logistics following it.
"It's probably the only one being done like it right now," Handler said. "It's fairly comprehensive. We've been working on this for six to seven months."
Such a scenario is increasingly on parents' radar following the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, said Maria Weingarten, the Board of Education liaison to the New Canaan High School Parent-Faculty Association.
"Things can happen anywhere, and that wasn't the first nor will it be the last time," she said. "Any time that you can practice a scenario, it can take some of the emotion out of a real situation, that's a good opportunity."
At Sandy Hook, 20 children and six adults were shot and killed by a 20-year-old gunman, who then took his own life.
Though no training can adequately prepare police for a situation like a mass shooting, that doesn't mean you shouldn't prepare, said interim Police Chief Leon Krolikowski.
"If you train well and consistently, so that it's second nature, it will really help. We want to get a plan in place so when we go to these things it's not `what do we do,' but `we know what to do,'" he said. "Every so often violence touches the town and I want to make sure our officers are well trained."
Handler said the drill will not cost the town more than a nominal amount of money. The participating departments have budgets for training, under which the drill will fall. He said Stamford police will be included so New Canaan police officers can experience the drill as first responders.
"I think it's on the forefront of everyone's mind," Susan Morse, co-president of the Saxe Middle School Parent-Teacher Association, said. "Hopefully these kinds of events never occur, but it's good to be prepared."
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