Last month several of us from Millersville’s Center for Disaster Research and Education had the opportunity to participate in a large scale active shooter drill at the Central York High School.  This drill was unique for various reasons, not the least of which was that school was in session.  I was asked by the media why an active shooter drill like this one is so important.  The answer is quite simple, basic preparedness.  You, your family or your child may never face an armed person, but this is another opportunity to think about preparedness, and what you would do when you are involved in a disaster.

It was not too long ago when we all thought we were safe in public places, but we have had shootings in schools, malls and movie theaters, so we all need to take preparedness seriously.  Parents need to understand the difference between shielding their children from “seeing something bad,” to protecting their children by letting them experience training that can prepare them for any disaster or event.  Basic awareness and knowing what to do in an emergency does not have to be a shooting, it could be severe weather like the storms that hit the Midwest yesterday, a fire, or a flooding situation.  The more preparedness we teach our children, the better habits they will form and therefore the better decisions they will make when faced with a situation that depends on good decision-making.

In speaking with the administrative personnel in the Central York School District and the Springettsbury Police Department, this was a huge undertaking in planning and preparedness.  Parents had to be welled informed and given options on the day of the exercise.  Some parents decided to keep their children from attending school that day, which is unfortunate.  We need to make sure our children understand what to do during a disaster, we need to make sure our children have a plan and good habits.  As parents, we need to understand that a large percentage of our children’s time is not spent with us.  We need to help our children prepare for whatever they may face, whether a man-made or natural disaster.

There is another side of this drill that is important too, the training of the school personnel and emergency responders.  School personnel had an opportunity to test their plans, plans that were put to use a week later during a bomb threat.  School personnel also had an opportunity to test the district’s family reunification plan.  This training was an invaluable opportunity for the district staff.  These opportunities to test plans are like buying insurance, you purchase it with the hopes you never need to use it.

Emergency response personnel came from all over the region to participate in this exercise.  Law enforcement, emergency medical services and fire personnel all had an opportunity to work together.  This exercise did not just benefit Central York School District, it benefited an entire region.  In the future if a large scale event occurs, the coordination will be much better because of the opportunities provided by the district and the local police department, Springettsbury Township.

Opportunities to work together in training and exercises are a huge benefit to responders who may later need to work together at an actual event.  A special thanks needs to go out to Chief Thomas Hyers and his staff, along with Chief David Spotts of the South Central Task Force for working together to make this region of south central Pennsylvania a better prepared and better trained region.

Parents love your children and take time each day to talk briefly to them about preparedness!