High school plans crisis drill

Donelle Pardee Whiting

On May 21, Washington Community High School will go into a Code Red lockdown when two “armed gunmen” take over the school.

In a pro-active stance, members of the Washington Police Department, Washington Fire Department and Washington Community High School are putting the final touches on a crisis drill.

The exercise is reminiscent of the Operation Prom Night drill enacted around this time last year. This time gunmen will take control of the school, causing injuries and mayhem.

The reason for the drill, dean of students Todd Hellrigel said, is to have students and faculty see first hand, in a controlled environment ,what happens once the school goes into lockdown.

Two Washington officers will portray the gunmen and several students will portray shooting victims.

In addition to a drill in lockdown procedures, police and rescue personnel will also be required to treat the training exercise as the real thing.

Hellrigel said during a planning meeting Monday night that the high school will send home letters to parents informing them of the crisis drill.

In addition, the school plans to use the Alert Now system.

The Alert Now system can make about 1,300 calls in 10 minutes.

The system was recently used when school was cancelled because of bad weather.

As part of the exercise several Washington officers will be called in, along with two Tazewell County sheriff’s deputies and three Illinois State Police troopers.

In all, about 23 emergency and police personnel are expected to participate.

The planning committee expects to have access to one fire truck, one rescue truck  and the Washington Fire Department command vehicle.

In addition to two of Washington’s ambulances, there will be two others from neighboring communities, James Bender said.

Bender added that because of Homeland Security rules, at least one ambulance must remain on call.

Deputy Police Chief Don Volk said the regular patrol officers will continue to patrol Washington’s streets that day, and the regular duty dispatcher will continue to handle emergency calls.

He said another dispatcher will be called in to run that part of the drill.

Among the planning issues discussed was where to place the incident command center, media, parents and rescue vehicles.

As part of the drill the “gunmen” and responding officers will be using simunition, a type of paint fired from air propelled weapons.

Bender said he followed Homeland Security guidelines when developing the drill.

Hellrigel said plans include inviting administrators from Washington’s grade schools to observe.