SIDNEY – Lehman Catholic High School, in collaboration with dozens of first responders from the surrounding area, conducted a hostile incident full-scale training exercise on the morning of Dec. 6. The exercise, in compliance with Lehman’s training curriculum, was conducted to prepare Lehman students, staff and local first responders for an active threat on campus.
To make the exercise more real, all Lehman teachers and staff participated along with Lehman Interim President Dr. Thomas Stein, Principal Veronica Gaier and student volunteers. Councilmember Scott Roddy was also in attendance to evaluate the performance of the executives. The teachers communicated through text throughout the exercise and an initial announcement by Gaier on the intercom, while first responders communicated on an alternate Sidney Police channel.
All the participants involved took the drill seriously and tension mounted as the actor with a gun entered through door two of the school, slowly and methodically tugging on each classroom door and occasionally shooting blanks at student volunteers that echoed throughout the silent halls. The scenario became palpable; from something you would hear about on TV to something that could happen to any school at any time. What was only a couple of minutes felt like years waiting for first responders to arrive, and the shooter had already canvassed the first floor before they arrived. The students energized the space further by screaming and diverting first responders’ attention to multiple points.
This is not the first time a drill like this has been conducted in the area; Sidney Police Patrol Supervisor Sgt. Jeremy Lorenzo said they have been conducting them for about five years, and one was held previously at Sidney Christian Academy during the summer. At that exercise, students were also involved but were not as active as those at Lehman and not all the teachers were there, so he believed Lehman felt more realistic.
“I think it (the exercise) went really well. It looked chaotic like it would be for real, and I thought it was very realistic and our officers felt like they were challenged, and some mistakes were made but they were corrected, and I think we learned a lot of things today. But overall, I think we communicated extremely well and worked well as a team being that there were so many different agencies involved,” Lorenzo said. “Right now, a lot of people are hurting for manpower, and for us all to come together to be able to conduct this exercise, it was truly rewarding for me.”
The exercise was also beneficial for Lehman’s staff who had the opportunity at the end to discuss their response plan – like the text system and some teachers not receiving the texts – and ask first responders for advice – like whether they should escape through windows.
“Lehman conducted a successful joint venture training exercise with our local law enforcement and first responder teams. The exercise was a great way to allow the first responder personnel to familiarize themselves with the Lehman facilities and for the Lehman community to become more aware of what to do in this type of situation,” Stein said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4824.