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Bessemer school holds mock shooting drill

 

Cortney Ofstad/Daily Globe

AN OFFICER from the Michigan State Police subdues the "shooter" during a mock shooting drill at A.D. Johnston School in Bessemer Friday. Staff participated in the drill, during an inservice day, to better prepare for a possible school shooting.

BESSEMER - Faculty and staff in the Bessemer School District participated in a mock shooting drill Friday during an in-service day.

The drill was held at A.D. Johnston School, performed by Bob Berbohm, emergency management director for Delta and Schoolcraft counties.

Gogebic County Emergency Management Director Jim Loeper also attended.

All staff members were informed of the drill and participated in various scenarios, involving a shooter in the hallway while teachers were inside classrooms, inside the hallway and behind barricaded doors.

Parents were notified of the drill, even though no students were present.

According to Diana Hansen, one of the teachers who helped plan the event, the idea for the drill came after school shootings across the country.

"You are always a little worried something could happen," Hansen said. "I thought the drill was very much a success. It went great."

Officers from the Gogebic County Sheriff's Department and Michigan State Police Wakefield, Negaunee and Calumet posts participated and used their own tactics to subdue the "shooter."

"I was actually out of the classrooms, watching the police officers enter the building and I was impressed with their professionalism and tactics, how they came in fast and swift and put the suspect down," Dave Radovich, superintendent, said. "They took care of everything quickly and I was impressed with that. You hear things of stuff taking a long time to occur, but I was very impressed."

Before the drill, Berbohm discussed how he trains different schools across the state. He performs the trainings for free, and Bessemer was his 200th school training.

He discussed how many schools believe "it will never happen here," and spoke about different examples of school shootings, including Newtown, Conn ., Columbine High School in Colorado, and others.

"I'm not here to criticize what they did or didn't do," Berbohm said. "I'm showing these to see what we can learn from these examples to be safer."

After the presentation, teachers were brought to a hallway near classrooms and scenarios were explained, then acted out, involving a shooter and officers responding.

Blank rounds were fired.

"This is the most realistic situation you'll ever face," Berbohm said.

When police were called to subdue the suspect, Berbohm spoke about their training.

"Their job is to eliminate the threat," Berbohm said. "They are trained for this. You are being trained to buy time."

Berbohm said the event was a "very good success," and commented on how well teachers were able to adapt with only 10 seconds of being in a lockdown situation before the "shooter" tried to enter the classroom.

"We emphasized the success in our last scenario with them, creating the inability for us to enter the classrooms in under 10 seconds," Berbohm said. "To me, that means they were grasping the concepts."

Berbohm was also impressed with the turnout of officers involved in the drill.

"What a wonderful turnout, what a pleasure!," Berbohm said. "You don't often see this number of officers, and that says a lot for the community."

According to Lt. Donald Horn, commander of the MSP Wakefield Post, planning for the events is "comforting." He said having drills can be "enlightening and beneficial," for schools.

"It's comforting to know that we have the school board and schools thinking about this, that way when law enforcement does show up, they know what to expect," Horn said. "It will give them a game plan. Before they would be clueless, but now they can put an action plan in place and hopefully resolve any situation, if we do ever have one.

"And if other districts want to put on a drill, they can contact the Michigan State Police, Gogebic County Sheriff's Department or Jim Loeper in the emergency management office, and we'll put it together," Horn said.

Kathy Johnson, high school secretary, said, "Typically, teachers think they're going to get an advanced notice, like 'Beep, beep. This is a lockdown. A perfect scenario is to be pre-notified, where you have time to plan and have a plan in place to implement; however, it's not always like that, and that is what we learned today."

Radovich said the district plans on more lockdown drills, and "practice, practice, practice.

"There is always going to be something unexpected," Radovich said. "It won't be perfect if something happens, but we will have a base knowledge of what we should do and how it should be done. Hopefully, everything works out and everyone is safe in the end. It's also great to have staff willing to participate. Teachers are also learners, and they are a very captive audience. Today, we supplied the education, they just had to come with containers."

For Hansen, the main focus is always about "what is best for the kids.

"When I first started teaching, I never thought we would be doing something like this," Hansen said. "It was fire drills, and then tornado drills came. There was never a thought about this. Doors were open, parents could come and go. And it's just hard to see that it has come to this, but we have to do what we need to do to make sure these kids are as safe as possible. Every teacher and staff member would lie down and do whatever they needed for those kids."