Unicoi Co. schools, police conducting active intruder drills

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UNICOI COUNTY, Tenn. (WJHL) First responders are putting school safety in action as Unicoi County schools conduct drills to practice their response in the event of a mass shooting or other emergency.

This marks “School Safety Awareness Week” in the county, where all six schools will take part in a series of “intruder drills.”

The state of Tennessee requires schools to partake in some type of coordinated drills with local law enforcement.

Happening the week of August 26th, Unicoi County schools will be making calls at random to local police departments, simulating an active shooter, intruder or other emergency to prompt response.

Fire, emergency and police crews with both the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Office and the Erwin Police Departments will dispatch to the school, just as they would in the event of a real-life call.

The goal is to practice all protocols in place for law enforcement, teachers, staff and students to make sure that if a real call came in, all parties move quickly.

“We are really looking at our response times and where we can be better. For the last three years, we have our drills documented, our times. We spend a lot of time after these drills debriefing, figuring out where we have gaps or blind spots and hopefully each time we get a little better,” says John English, director of Unicoi County Schools.

They say other than a shooting, several events can prompt a lock-down that police and the school need to be prepared for.

“Everybody always thinks about a school shooter, but it’s not always a school shooter that initiates these type of drills. We had a manhunt within one yard of our elementary school two years ago, so we had to go on lock-down and treat that like we could potentially have an intruder in our school,” says English.

English says though the drills may be alarming for some, they are important.

“It’s something that you hate you have to do, but that’s the world we live in now. My number one priority is keeping students safe. These drills do help in the event of, heaven forbid, anything really happening,” says English.

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