I’ve used this blog several times to urge schools to have an emergency plan in place and then practice it again and again. The plan should cover natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, wild fires, and earthquakes. And it should consider that a gunman could arrive on campus and start shooting.

The latter event recently occurred in a New Jersey pre-school. Fortunately, there were no kids around when a gunman stormed into the library during a teacher workshop and began firing a handgun. Staff members present at the time fled for their lives. Thankfully, there was only one injury caused when a teacher tripped running out of the building.

But there didn’t need to be any panic or injuries. District officials staged the event. The gunman was an actor and the bullets were blanks. The acting superintendent said the district just wanted to assess the security readiness of the staff. The idea was good, but the execution was terrible. There could have been more and far-worse injuries from this stunt. If you are planning to practice your emergency plan–and I hope you will–please let your staff know about it in advance.

The injured teacher is now suing the school district, police, state department of education, and the teacher’s union. The union claims no responsibility in planning the drill.

Patrick V. Fiel Sr. is public safety advisor for ADT Security Services and a former executive director of school security for Washington, D.C. Public School System. He also served 22 years in the Army Military Police Corps, where his responsibilities included day-to-day security operations at the West Point Military Academy. During his time with ADT, Fiel has conducted more than 100 television, radio, newspaper, and magazine interviews as a public and school safety expert.

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