Preparing for active shooters, Nebraskans increase safety measures
WINSIDE -- As legislatures debate gun control and families speak out about massacres, small towns in Nebraska are left asking: What if it was us?
"We always think we're ready for anything -- but you just never know," said Norfolk Police Chief Don Miller. He continued, police are unable to disclose details of how they would respond to an active shooter -- so that suspects don't take advantage of their intel. However, training is consistently updated -- and they constantly meet with schools and authorities.
"In this community, we have really good partnerships," said Norfolk Public Schools director of student services Erik Wilson.
Wilson explained that NPS students practice lockdown drills once a semester. They also recently decided to add a mental health practitioner to the junior high -- on top of the high school one. But, while Norfolk Police consistently updates protocols, Wilson said schools stick to one drill.
"If you're changing that, they [kids] don't know how to react, and we want it to be more consistent so it's more muscle memory for them," Wilson said.
"We're doing everything we can to make it as safe as possible. Unfortunately, if someone wants to break in, they will -- but it's a matter of creating a sense of security," said K-12 Winside Elementary Principal Cory Friedrich. Unlike some other schools, Winside tries to have a lockdown drill once a year -- it has been doing fewer due to pandemic social distancing regulations, Freidrich said.
To make school safer, Winside Public Schools is aiming to connect its elementary and high school under one roof soon for better shelter plans -- while adding capabilities to lock down sections of the building.
"The plan has been put on the back burner because of all these lovely construction costs," Friedrich said.
Explaining all this to younger kids can be difficult. Friedrich explained the elementary students aren't told what the drills are really about.
Still, authorities recommend parents be as open as possible with children.
Of course, that's not easy. As a parent, Wison said it's scary -- but that he's confident in NPS' strict security system, where only verified adults are allowed in.
"We've seen officers go into harm's way to protect people who are there," Miller said. "History has shown that we're going to be ready," Miller said.
He's not the only one with a personal stake in the community's kids.
"I have two children and it automatically makes you think of your own children and what you would do in that situation -- it's frightening, it's terrifying," said Norfolk Fire and Rescue Chief Tim Wragge. Wragge said he and his team is ready to respond after police determine when they are allowed to approach and administer first aid.
But just as techniques for preparation develop, so do ways to attack. And, there are still parts about the preparation that are changing. For example, opinions may be mixed on ALICE training that tells teachers to throw books at a shooter.
Ultimately, police departments ask parents to be open with their kids and keep an eye on their social media.