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Lessons learned from active shooter drill at Frontier High School

The video starts out with a scruffy looking man holding a gun, nervously approaching the door at Frontier Central High School at 8 a.m.

After a moment, he is in, and the carnage begins in a shocking video of an active shooter drill.

The first police arrive by 8:04 a.m., guns drawn, sprinting down hallways, cautiously walking up a staircase.

“As you can see, there are about a thousand things going on in that hallway,” Hamburg Police Capt. Peter Dienes told the Frontier Central School Board.

Board members and those in the audience watched the 21-minute video, edited from 30 cameras set up around the high school, in rapt attention Tuesday night.

“It was very reassuring that all of these professionals are here to protect our children,” Superintendent Bret Apthorpe said.

The drill helped police agencies, school administrators and emergency medical services personnel prepare for not only an intruder in the building, but other emergencies.

About 20 seniors, with their parents’ permission, took an active part in the drill April 21. They met with emergency responders in advance, where they were shown the weapons police would use, and assured that they would be firing blanks, and that no one would get hurt, said Sean Crotty, Hamburg’s emergency manager. The victims were outfitted with moulage – fake blood and makeup to make their “injuries” more realistic.

It was a first for emergency medical technicians and paramedics to be drilling in the “warm zone” in the school, rather than waiting at the command center area, and it was helpful for all involved, said the organizers.

“We identified some of the things we’re very good at. We also identified some things we need to work at,” Dienes said.

The high school did the same, said principal Jeffrey Sortisio. One of the first things that struck him during the drill was that there were so many notices on the glass door that it was difficult for his staff to see a full view of the gunman. By the next day, the items were rearranged.

“Now we have a much clearer picture,” he said.

There were more than 200 professionals from a number of agencies involved in the drill. The idea for having such a drill came from the district’s safety committee, said FBI Special Agent James Jancewicz.

The principal said he almost stopped the drill in the middle, when one of the student volunteers was hysterical.

“She was so realistic, I thought she was having an anxiety attack,” Sortisio said.

He asked her if she was all right, and she gave him a quick wink.

And that scruffy looking man with the gun, who was shot by responding officers, was actually a police officer playing the part, and is cleaned up today, looking like an altar boy, Crotty said.