ALBANY — Gunshots echoing in the halls left teacher Missy Wild feeling “chills,” even though she knew it was a drill.
“I grabbed a fire extinguisher for protection,” she said.
Wild and other faculty and staff members from Livingston Parish schools locked themselves in classrooms Friday as “gunmen” shooting blanks tested plans for dealing with real intruders.
At the same time, a similiar drill was unfolding at Walker High School.
Two law enforcement officers acting as men attacking Albany High School walked into Principal Jill Prokop’s office just as she finished intercom announcements.
They opened fire with blanks, then burst out of the office and into other wings of the school firing more blanks as they went.
The smell of gunfire wafted from the halls.
Another intercom message announced a lockdown, alerting everyone in hearing there was a shooter in the school.
Mock intruder Jeremy Patt made it to one room and fired shots before doors were locked.
At another room, he banged on the door, shotgun in hand, ordering the teacher to let him in. The teacher didn’t.
In a different hall, mock intruder Brian Cullen simultaneously fired shots as he tried to get into classrooms.
Sirens screamed as police and members of the sheriff’s Special Response Team showed up.
Patt positioned himself behind a building and opened fire with blanks on officers as they approached.
Normally Patt, an SRT member, and Cullen, who is a Killian police officer, would be on the other side in such a crisis.
“It was a different experience,” Cullen said.
Eventually, the arriving officers subdued the mock intruders.
Prokop said it would have been too late for her.
“I was pretty much gone” as soon as it started, she said of the initial shooting in the office.
She said she didn’t inform her teachers ahead of time what would happen during the drill, but gave them several possible scenarios.
“We wanted the element of surprise,” she said.
Prokop’s faculty members maintained their usual role as teachers, while the faculty and staff members from other schools acted as students.
Regular classes had been dismissed early.
Prokop said she would hold a faculty debriefing after teachers have had time to think about the scenario.
Law enforcement officials said they would do the same.
Some things went well and some things can be improved upon in the response, said Jason Ard, chief deputy of the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office.
A lot of things need to be looked at and “nitpicked,” said Ard, who acted as an observer.
The exercise also was important for staff and faculty of the parish’s schools, because it gave them a “realistic scenario with the sounds of gunshots and the smells,” he said.
School Superintendent Bill Spear said he was pleased school personnel could be given such a realistic experience.
He said he also was pleased with how school officials reacted and added he would look at “things we could improve on.”
It was a good learning tool and those who participated “can learn from it,” said Albany Police Chief Russell Hutchinson.
Lorie Gordon of Albany Lower Elementary said she felt the high school’s faculty was well prepared.
“They handled things well in what was a “really scary” situation, she said.
Gordon said that’s a “comfort,” since she has a child attending the school.