Stafford, NJ Police hold active shooter training drill ahead of new school year
Ahead of the new school year, the Stafford Township Police Department held an active shooter training drill at McKinley Avenue Elementary School to continue to be ready for a situation they hope never happens anywhere.
This large-scale simulated event was orchestrated with all the details of what could happen in such a situation.
"The initial precipitating event was a motor vehicle accident, the subject got out, ran towards the school, and started shooting a rifle at that point. Our officers were dispatched and immediately neutralized the shooter, and they're clearing the building at this point," Stafford Township Police Chief Tom Dellane told Townsquare Media News.
Every detail was mapped out in this simulation including parents rushing toward the school, law enforcement and SWAT teams doing a sweep of the school, and more.
"What we do is we prioritize our response with the greater priority being to stop the shooting, then we go to rendering care for the injured and we start working our way out from there," Chief Dellane said. "We do anticipate that there would be parents that would be flooding the school, so, we'd have to set up a couple of perimeters to do that and try and take the parents and have them go to what we refer to as a reunification center, and we'll get the children out of the school as quickly as possible and get them reunited with their families as soon as we can."
There have been discussions and plans put into place in various towns across the state to have armed security and police officers in school buildings following mass shootings in schools in other states.
it's magnified the importance of law enforcement continuing to have these types of active shooter simulator training exercises.
"The goal of this drill is to determine what we're doing well and identify and address any areas of improvement," Chief Dellane said. "In any instance, you're going to have hiccups in any drill you do, we're going to have a debrief after this event is over with everyone that is involved and we're going to identify what we did well and where we need to improve and we're going to take that list of areas where we need to improve -- often times its communication and logistical issues and we'll try to formulate plans that will address that, pre-plan it so that God forbid this does ever happen, we can be better prepared to address it."
The realness of what was said and heard in this drill served as a reminder of the possible dangers out there that need to have action plans prepared now.
"As I saw this drill happen before my eyes my heart sank as the leader of this school district knowing we're responsible for 4,000 students and I have children of my own, so, to come together and see what actually could happen and the response of everybody responding appropriately and quickly and actually practicing this was simply amazing," George J. Chidiac, Superintendent of Stafford Township Schools told Townsquare Media News. "Our motto here is to the children when we practice this all the time with the teachers and throughout the community, is not to be scared but to be prepared and this in fact shows you that we always want to be prepared."
There have been safety officers, many retired police officers, working in the Stafford Township School District since 2015, and that will continue in the new school year as well as other continued security measures being taken.
"They are armed, it's concealed, we have secure vestibules, we have cameras, we have a shared 911 service, which all the teachers and staff and all the law enforcement officials can communicate on, we have a certain mapping that they can see," Chidiac said. "Our number one priority here in Stafford is students first and their safety."
In addition to Stafford Police Officers in this active shooter simulation drill, other law enforcement agencies involved included the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, New Jersey State Police as well as local agencies including Barnegat Police, EMS units, Southern Ocean Medical Center representatives, and Stafford Township School Officials.