Waveland school shooting drill pushes first responders to the limit

WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - The Waveland Police Department put first responders to the test Friday. The mission was to measure their ability to handle a serious school emergency.

The drill took place at Waveland Elementary School and involved an angry man with a gun who gains entry and opens fire. Police say training exercises like this are the best way to prepare for the real thing.

Here's the scenario: A crazed gunman opened fire at the school. The school went on lockdown, and police soon stormed the building in search of the shooter. The fire department blocked off nearby roads to keep people away from the volatile situation unfolding. In this exercise, there were some serious injuries, but no casualties.

"Part of the scenario was testing everybody's ability to take care of their job," said Waveland Police Chief David Allen. "We overwhelmed the ER with the number of children that we sent, as well as the shooter, which gave their security staff some issues. We basically tested it from top to bottom. Everybody that's going to be touching a situation like this, what's their role and what are they going to do?"

It took six months to plan the exercise and only the chief knew all the details.

"The less my officers knew, the better. We want to keep our officers in the dark. We purposely fed them bad information going in, we purposely changed things mid-stream, we purposely did not give them enough people to do what they needed to do. This was about challenge, this was about giving them things they need to overcome to think on their feet to take care of the situation."

Allen said aside from some small communication issues, everyone involved performed well. The school superintendent agreed.

"After the Sandy Hook shooting, we did safety audits on all of our schools and revised our crisis plans. So I do feel confident that the plan we have in place on an intruder drill did work," said Rebecca Ladner, Superintendent of Bay-Waveland Schools.

The student actors involved in the drill said it was a real learning experience.

"If this had happened, I'd know what to do and it would be really serious," explained 5th grade student Madison Kennedy.

The exercise took place at Waveland Elementary School Friday because only teachers were there. Normal classes were not in session.

Police also consulted with child psychologists on how to make sure the student actors that did participate in the drill were not traumatize in anyway.

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