With continuous news about school violence and natural disasters, Weston’s emergency responders held a training session to help ensure safety at the town’s schools.
Active shooter simulations and safety seminars were part of Weston’s Joint Incident Response Training, day-long session for police, fire and emergency-services personnel.
Having all three safety-related departments on hand for the exercise was vital, according to Weston Police Chief Ed Henion.
“Joint incident responses mean a coordinated effort among police, firefighters and EMS,” said Henion. “The purpose is to better protect the Weston school campus from any sort of adverse incident — which could be a weather-related event such as tornado, another type of natural disaster, or the danger posed by an intruder on the school campus.”
The training took place last month at Hurlbutt Elementary School and consisted of classroom exercises in the morning, with drills and simulations in the afternoon. In addition to Weston personnel, the training session was attended by members of the Easton, Westport and Wilton police departments and police commissions, regional medical-evacuation providers, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The training aimed to test a responder’s knowledge in dealing with any incident that might lead to mass casualties, said Jess DiPasquale, a member of the Weston Board of Police Commissioners. “Each person in each particular department has a specific role to play. By simulating this type of incident, we were better able to see how police, fire and EMS would best work together to ensure school safety.”
In planning for a worst-case scenario, participants acted out what they would do if an active school shooter were on the campus. As such, it provided everyone involved with a look at how well such procedures would work in an adverse situation — and what might be improved.
As gruesome as the simulated scenario might sound, everyone involved got a chance to learn and practice some important life-saving techniques. “Several people from EMS acted as shooting victims,” said DiPasquale. “This gave the others a chance to test their caregiving abilities as well as learning the best way of moving victims out of danger.”
Weston Public Schools have greatly enhanced school safety in recent years. The police department has one School Resource Officer (SRO) assigned to the schools with an upcoming appointment of a second one, as well as a patrol officer for the Mile-of-Safety (School Road, where all the schools are located. The schools have security officers and have improved and upgraded their alarm systems and other security infrastructure.
Besides police, fire and EMS, the Joint Incident Response Training focused on the interface with leadership at the three schools. School administrators conducted lockdown drills involving students and teachers.
“We have not had this type of drill in several years in Weston,” said Henion. “With all that’s happening in schools these days around the country, it was important for our emergency responders to be prepared for any type of incident.”
DiPasquale said the exercise showed that Weston’s responders are “on point.”
“We’re proud to be among the safest schools in the state,” he said. “I believe that to effectively educate our students, we have to first make sure they are safe in their learning environment. Having this type of training helps accomplish that.”