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Morristown active shooter drill seeks to shore up security at the school

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MORRISTOWN — Law enforcement officers from across St. Lawrence County descended Friday afternoon on Morristown Central School to take part in an active-shooter drill, testing and strengthening the school’s readiness in the event of a school shooting.

The drill comes as Morristown prepares to make a $100,000 upgrade to its security system, including the addition of an “air-lock” front entrance and buzzer system that will better regulate the flow of traffic.

The district also is looking at changing classroom doors to ensure they all can be locked from the inside as well as making the windows on doors smaller, giving less visibility to would-be killers. These upgrades are expected to be made over the summer.

“We’re here trying to teach kids to be the best they can be, and you’ve got to worry about getting shot at? Unfortunately, yes,” Superintendent David J. Glover said.

The drill was organized by the state police and saw officers responding from Ogdensburg, Gouverneur, Customs and Border Protection, Border Patrol and the St. Lawrence County Sheriff’s Department.

“This is the way we can find out what’s broken so we can get it fixed,” state police Sgt. Chad K. Niles said.

Faculty from the school played teachers and students with help from the Morristown Volunteer Fire Department and Gouverneur Correctional Facility, which sent officers over to play students.

Shooters armed with starter pistols and a semiautomatic M4 loaded with blanks stormed the building at 12:45 p.m., “killing” about five people and firing more than 50 rounds before being taken out.

One of the shooters was “killed” on the second floor of the building while another was shot in the library. Law enforcement officers used fake plastic rifles and pistols.

“The lockdown procedures themselves worked very well,” Mr. Niles said. “It really looked like there wasn’t anybody in here.”

Mr. Niles also said the drill was helpful for law enforcement officers. “It’s a good opportunity for us to get together with different agencies.”

Furthermore, he said, getting police familiarized with local schools and helping teachers to be better at locking down the building is crucial to ensuring the safety of students in the future.

Because Morristown is located relatively far from law enforcement hubs, Mr. Niles said, it may take up to 15 minutes for responders to arrive on the scene.

“You should attempt to intervene,” Mr. Niles told staff members at the school, though he instructed them not to hurt any of the officers participating in Friday’s drill.

“This is an exercise to test the implementation of the school’s safety plans. Go with your gut instincts,” he said.

Beyond the drill, Mr. Niles gave out basic information about school shootings he hoped would be helpful to staff.

The most important element, he said, is to remain hidden.

Shooters “are looking for easy, accessible targets. They know the cops are coming,” Mr. Niles said, adding that most shootings are over within 15 minutes.

Mr. Niles also praised the system Morristown has in place, allowing any teacher to put the school into lockdown if he or she spots trouble.

“We want to have the response as quickly as we can,” Mr. Glover said.

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