LOWELL (CBS) – When it comes to protecting school children, practice makes perfect and there is no room for mistakes.
On Monday, local police officers went through a training drill to practice how they would respond if a gunman was in a school.
“Columbine changed everything, and Newtown made it all the more pressing,” says Lowell Police Sgt. Jim Fay.
What he’s talking about is a new way of thinking about how police respond to a gunman in a school.
Today, at the McAuliffe Elementary School, police were put in a very real-looking, and sounding drill.
They had to enter the school, and find a gunman.
When they did, they heard the sound of gunfire (blanks, not live rounds) and had to run headlong down the hallways to find the target.
Speed was essential. In a real scenario, every second wasted could mean another life lost so the officers were running, weapons pointed down the hallways. They went in two at a time, then four. But each time, the objective was the same: find the gunman, and eliminate him.
“We want them at full-speed,” said Capt. Kelly Richardson, “ because every second is precious. And we want their heart rates up, so in a real situation, they can handle the stress.”
Prior to Columbine and, to some degree Newtown, police would often surround a building, cut off any escape routes, and call in special teams. Now, the emphasis is on whoever gets there first, engage the gunman, police said.