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New Canaan First Responders Test Emergency School Scenarios

Michael Handler, right, breaks down a classroom lockdown drill in which teachers and other school employees played students hiding in a classroom.
Michael Handler, right, breaks down a classroom lockdown drill in which teachers and other school employees played students hiding in a classroom. Photo Credit: Anthony Buzzeo

NEW CANAAN, Conn. — New Canaan became the first town since Newtown to hold active shooter drills, when it put its first responders through several scenarios at Saxe Middle School on Thursday.

“We are all very sensitive to the tragedy at Sandy Hook,” Michael Handler, director of Emergency Operations for the town, said in describing how tense the situations would be. “I guarantee you it’s a fraction of what it will be in a real emergency.”

With the help of community volunteers, including New Canaan teachers and students, the first responders and school officials ran through four different modules. The modules included: a person entering the school, eliminating a suspect, evacuating and sweeping the school, and reunification.

“Just because you’re a 17-year-old boy doesn’t mean you won’t play a 55-year-old woman. I hope you brought your acting skills,” Handler said to the volunteers.

After and during each scenario, Handler asked questions and stopped people to make sure everyone was following the proper steps or, in the case of reunification, putting in the proper framework for the process. The town’s safety policies may be changed based on Thursday’s drills.

“It’s too soon to tell,” Handler said of how the day went. He added that he would speak to each group of first responders to hear their reactions to the work.

Joining the New Canaan contingency were members of the State Police, FBI and a lieutenant from the Newtown police to assist and offer guidance throughout the day.

The first responders also tested surveillance technology from AmNet Technology Solutions , which allowed them to look through the school’s surveillance cameras and record what was taking place. The town will now be able to decide whether to purchase it.

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