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Why a Connecticut town prepares for an active school shooter — a photo essay

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Brian Scott-Smith
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WSHU
A Waterford Police Special Response Team officer stands on-guard during an active shooter drill on Wednesday, August 8, 2022, at Quaker Elementary School in town.

Around 200 law enforcement and first responders were activated during a major active school shooter exercise in the Town of Waterford, Connecticut on Wednesday.

 Armed police clearing school hallways during an active shooter drill in Waterford.
Brian Scott-Smith
/
WSHU
Armed police clearing school hallways during an active shooter drill in Waterford.

The event held at Quaker Hill Elementary School took months of planning — even before the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

Waterford Police Chief Marc Balestracci said the training will help them be better prepared for an event, like the elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas in May.

“The national training model for police for active shooters is police officers respond and immediately go towards the threat,” Balestracci said.

It took Uvalde police over an hour to enter Robb Elementary School, where 19 children and two adults were killed in the shooting.

 Waterford Police Special Response Team sweep through Quaker Elementary School during an active shooter drill.
Brian Scott-Smith
/
WSHU
Waterford Police Special Response Team sweep through Quaker Elementary School during an active shooter drill.

According to a 2012 report from the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, Newtown Police arrived at Sandy Hook Elementary School just over two minutes after the initial 911 call was placed. Police entered the school about six minutes after the first officer arrived.

In 1999, it took a SWAT team about 47 minutes to enter Columbine High School after the shooting. However, several officers were able to respond quicker.

During Wednesday’s training, law enforcement from nearby New London and Montville joined Waterford Police’s Special Response Team in just a few minutes, as well as other state and federal agencies, descending on Quaker Hill Elementary School.

 Two police officers guard the subdued gunman during an active shooter drill in Waterford.
Brian Scott-Smith
/
WSHU
Two police officers guard the subdued gunman during an active shooter drill in Waterford.

“Once that threat is eliminated and only once that threat is eliminated will you start to see officers standing and holding ground, making sure they don’t give up ground. God forbid there’s a second or third shooter,” Balestracci said. “I am confident with Connecticut’s response, because we all train together as police, how officers will immediately go in and challenge any shooter in an active shooter situation.”

The drill also helped teams work out communication issues and how to better reunify students with their grownups once they have been safely evacuated from the school.

Waterford First Selectman Rob Brule said major exercises like these are vital and a reality check for everyone.

“Today it is very intense,” Brule said. “You can see that in the officers coming in the entry. The SRT Team is on its way now, if not here already. But there are steps going on that it is very intense, and this drill is meant to be that way.”

“We try to make sure we inform the public leading all the way up until today and I think it’s really important they understand that we are doing this.” he continued.

Brule noted that the town is used to exercising for emergency events with the Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford.

 EMTs medically treat students and other people role playing as gun shot victims in the gymnasium of an elementary school in Waterford during an active shooter drill.
Brian Scott-Smith
/
WSHU
EMTs medically treat students and other people role playing as gun shot victims in the gymnasium of an elementary school in Waterford during an active shooter drill.

Copyright 2022 WSHU. To see more, visit WSHU.

Brian Scott-Smith / WSHU
/
WSHU
Brian Scott-Smith / WSHU
/
WSHU
Brian Scott-Smith / WSHU
/
WSHU

Brian Scott-Smith
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