NAUGATUCK — Naugatuck High School and the Naugatuck Police Department came together this week to practice what to do if a gunman was walking the school’s halls.
On Monday morning the school in conjunction with police ran an intruder drill at the school to help prepare the staff and students in the event that there was an active shooter in the school.
“It went well in the respect that students, staff, and everyone took it seriously,” Principal Janice Saam said. “As you walked up the halls you would have thought there were no humans in the building.”
The drill involved a “shooter,” portrayed by a police officer, walking through the halls while the police department tracked him down, Saam said. During the drill, which lasted 12 minutes, the students and staff were instructed to shut the lights off in classrooms and be silent.
“It was silent, dark, and you could see nothing in the classrooms,” Saam said.
Lt. Bryan Cammarata, spokesman for the police department, said that the department has run drills in the schools before but not during school hours with students in the building.
“We’ve done active shooter drills in the school, but not with students and staff in the training exercise,” Cammarata said. “The training today was for the benefit of school.”
Cammarata, who had not been part of the drill, said the report he received was that the students and staff acted as they should have.
“Our guys felt that the school did a very good job. The students got themselves to where they need to be, in a secure location, and were quiet, which is what you want,” Cammarata said.
Saam said this is the first time in approximately seven years that the school has practiced an intruder drill.
An emphasis has been placed on school safety across the country following the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.
Prior drills at the high school though have not included the police department.
Saam said the students were notified of the drill in their homerooms a week before it happened. Flyers were placed around the school and the same notice was placed on the school’s website.
“With any drill, it is always the intent to prepare and not scare. Every type of drill we practice allows us to analyze our vulnerabilities and better prepare for any actual emergency,” the notice read.
Saam said the drill did help the school find where its vulnerabilities were and learn what needs to do to better protect itself.
One of the vulnerabilities that Saam learned of came after the drill had ended. She began walking around the school, knocking on the doors, and telling them the drill was over. However, none of the students came out of hiding.
Saam said she realized that this could have been part of the drill.
“What if I was doing it under duress,” Saam said.
Saam said the school needed a codeword to signal it was truly safe.
The police took video of the incident, which the school will review to see if there were any vulnerabilities that were missed and to see if there were any logistical changes that could be made to keep the students safer, Saam said.
“This is going to become part and parcel with what we do. We will practice all our drills throughout the year,” Saam said.
Saam said that with each drill the school will look for ways to keep the students safer.
“It’s like anything else, the more you practice something the more proficient you become in it,” Cammarata added.