LONDONDERRY — It's a type of training that may be the new norm for schools, as staff and faculty continue to be updated on safety measures and how to handle a potential crisis in the classroom.
This week, the Londonderry school district will ad another awareness drill to the list for keeping schools and children safe.
On Friday the district, in conjunction with Londonderry police and fire departments, will conduct gun awareness drills in all buildings.
Each school will have a designated time for the drill, followed by a debriefing session with emergency officials. The purpose it to provide staff with a memory imprint of what an actual gunshot sounds like from various locations around the facility.
"The main purpose of the drill is to allow the faculty to hear what a gunshot, rather close, sounds like in a building," said district business administrator Peter Curro. "There will be no students there, only faculty and staff. So teachers get a feel for what the gunshot, if it ever happens, sounds like. All staff will be notified ahead of time of the drill and each drill will consist of a 10 to 15-minute active threat component, followed by the 30 to 45-minute debriefing session as a school wide group.
Police officers will fire blank rounds in different areas of each building and then staff will be able to choose to fully participate in the drill by being at their regular work locations. Curro, along with Kim Carpinone, co-chairman of the Londonderry School District Emergency Operations Committee, will accompany the trainers during the drill.
Once staff hear the gunshots, staff will then use strategies they've learned through the district's "Avoid, Deny, Defend" training efforts, where teachers and staff are in charge of the classroom and make decisions based on what they feel is appropriate. Staff will also need to identify the sound of the shot and, with some certainty, find out from where it was fired.
Staff choosing to "avoid" will leave the building calmly but remain close to attend the followup debriefing. Staff may also choose to partially participate and will meet together in the library to hear the gunshots, then talk about their observations in a group format prior to the debriefing.
Finally, staff can choose to not participate in the drill and leave the building for the active threat portion, then rejoin for the debriefing.
The goals are to give staff the opportunity to hear what actual gunfire sounds like, then determine how they will react in the case of an actual event.
During the actual drill on Friday, there will be communications posted throughout the town.
Curro said it's not the kind of drill the district welcomes, but it's a valuable and important process to keep safety a top priority.
"We are not happy we are doing this, but we feel it's responsible," Curro said.
School Board Chairman Nancy Hendricks said unfortunately this type of training is becoming the new normal.
"Whether any of us like it or not, it's become part of our culture," she said. "We have to be prepared."
School Superintendent Scott Laliberte said Londonderry is lucky to have such fantastic community partners in the police and fire departments.
"This makes us all uncomfortable," Laliberte said, "but I feel a lot more comfortable knowing we are planning and training to be proactive about this to be prepared, God forbid."