This article was contributed by San Benito High School Communications Director, Adam Breen.
The San Benito County Office of Education and the Hollister Police Department hosted a safety workshop at the San Benito High School library on Monday, March 26. School districts from throughout the county were on hand for the 90-minute workshop, led by County Superintendent of Schools Krystal Lomanto and Hollister Police Department school resource officers Carlos Rodriguez and Staci Esqueda.
Lomanto offered a handout that discussed “The Big 5” actions that require an emergency response, including shelter in place; drop, cover and hold on; secure campus; evacuation; and lockdown/barricade.
Representatives of various schools throughout the county shared with their table groups information about the drills that they have practiced at their school site, discussing which have gone well and their areas of concern about the drills and process.
Lomanto said that the more school staff members think and talk about safety measures, “the more prepared they will be.” She added that “The more you practice and collaborate, the more prepared you will be if there is a serious incident, like an earthquake or an active shooter.”
Site administrators are in charge of schools during an incident and must coordinate with site- and district-level administrators so everyone knows their roles and responsibilities,the superintendent noted.
The group discussed two practice scenarios and asked what they would do in their role on campus if either incident took place.
“Scenarios are always a great way to engage your staff to get them thinking about what they would do” in the event of an incident, Lomanto said, such as a confrontation near campus in which a firearm might be present or dealing with phoned-in threats toward a school staff member.
San Benito High School Principal Adrian Ramirez said one issue educational sites deal with is how to deal with scenarios that happen outside of regular school hours, such as before or after school.
“Who is going to do what, when and where is really important for all of your sites,” Lomanto said.
Rodriguez and Esqueda offered the HPD’s Active Shooter Workshop to the group, with Rodriguez noting that schools will never be at the point where training is not necessary. He said that after every school incident nationwide, law enforcement learns from them and applies that knowledge to training.
He noted that there are seven Hollister Police officers on duty at any given time, with one to four sheriff’s deputies along with the California Highway Patrol.
In discussing “real-world lockdown scenarios in Hollister,” the school resource officers noted that the most common scenario involves some type of law enforcement call for service or criminal activity occurring near a campus or potentially spilling onto the campus.
Every incident, the presentation noted, has occurred with little or no warning and in “virtually every case, every school has reacted quickly and decisively.”
Law enforcement will respond immediately to any call for an active shooter on or near a school, entering a campus and moving directly to the threat without delay. The protocol calls for officers to bypass the dead and wounded until an active threat has been located and neutralized, including fellow downed officers. They will conduct a thorough search of campus before the area is declared secure and the school is evacuated.
The presentation, which walked through each of the “Big Five” school incident scenarios, reminded the school officials that their mindset is key to their survival, noting that they should take training and drills seriously, as students will follow their example.