GOSHEN — Police officers and firefighters honed their skills during active-intruder training at Goshen High School, but teachers and administrators learned from the experience too, officials said Tuesday.
Around 75 staff members with Goshen Community Schools joined emergency personnel Monday as the Goshen Police and Goshen Fire departments sharpened their school safety response plans.
“For us, it’s a chance to test some things that we practice,” Goshen High School principal Barry Younghans said. “This gives us a chance to feel the chaos of the moment but with no real threat, and it allows us to work through some of those things we have in place and work through some inefficiencies we might have.”
Due to the high stress-levels during even mock active-intruder training sessions, counselors were on hand before, after and the following day for any staffers who needed it, Younghans said.
“There was a little adrenaline rush for sure,” he said. “The teachers that took part would have a better idea of the chaos that could ensue and trying to seek safety. Our primary function is to educate students and keep them safe, so we have to tread lightly with how much anxiety we place on our staff we try to train for that.”
Lt. Jeremy Hooley with the Goshen Police Department Training Division, affirmed the principal’s view.
“The difference between training and real situations is the level of chaos and stress,” Hooley said.
Students were not permitted to take part in the training.
“As educators we walk a fine line,” Younghans said. “Schools are still extremely safe places as a general rule. The problem is when something does happen in a school, it’s a big disaster. I would say our staff is relatively well prepared, but we have never been placed in that situation, so you’re really at the mercy of how that event would unfold.”
It’s only the second time the departments have trained at a Goshen Community School, Younghans said, but staffers have learned a lot already.
“I feel like no matter how you do this you’re always going to learn something, but I also think a whole lot of stuff went as well as can be expected,” Younghans said.
Unlike situations during the school year, the high-stress situations of these drills can help staff see what they might forget, he said.
“It can be small things like making sure the door is locked behind you, a fairly common thing, but under stress you might not remember to do that,” he said.
Drills also help the school to ensure all aspects of an emergency situation are accounted for, such as who is assigned to call 911. Drills such as this one also help staff and emergency personnel practice interacting with each other in an emergency situation.
“We need to know how they’re going to respond and they need real world experiences to see how people will respond,” Younghans said. “We need to understand how the role of responders will be.”
Other emergency agencies came to the high school to learn and to give advice to those participating in the drill.
“I do think it speaks to the quality of what Goshen wants,” Younghans said. “I have the assistant police chief’s phone and the fire chief’s number on my phone and I’m one call away from getting help, and I don’t think that happens very often. It’s a great connection with the community in general. I don’t think that’s common with cities our size. I think it speaks volumes for the community, but also for the kinds of things we want to do for our kids. They are all about keeping our kids safe.”
The Goshen Police Department continues to work toward integration with the fire department during emergency events, and Hooley said first responders are seeing improvements with every training session.
“As with every training scenario event we conduct, we review what was done well, and what can be improved,” Hooley said. “No matter how good a response is, there is always room for improvement. We can never settle for good enough. It is not an option in our line of work.”