Active shooter drill teaches lessons at Hancock schools

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Local law enforcement agents from three departments meet with principal Ezekiel Ohan (right) before beginning the hard lockdown drill conducted Friday at the middle school and high school. From left, Houghton County Sheriff’s deputy Joshua Saarinen, Hancock police chief Wayne Butler, Hancock Lt. Dave Outinen, Michigan State Police trooper Kevin Rajala and Ohan go over plans.

HANCOCK — When principal Ezekiel Ohan asked for the participation of local law enforcement agents in hard lockdown at the middle and high schools Friday, he intended it being more of an educational test than a simple drill.

Police officers provided feedback on their observations and information on how to improve security at the school in the event of the facility being confronted with an active shooter situation.

What Ohan learned of the three potential life-threatening issues found by officers, two were breaches in security that resulted from students and personnel.

Before the drill even began, Hancock police chief Wayne Butler informed Ohan that he and two of his officers had gained entry through an outside door of the cafeteria they found visibly open.

Ohan was also informed that media had gained entrance to the high school when a student in the vestibule opened the door for a Daily Mining Gazette reporter.

Butler also had discovered a third breach and mentioned it as he sat down in the conference room for the debriefing after the drill.

“Well,” Butler said, “I just took out 30 students and the teacher in shop class with an IED (improvised explosive device).”

He said he could not be sure if the shop teacher was aware of the lockdown alarm due to the noise by electric tools in use.

On the plus side, teachers responded to the drill flawlessly.

When the lockdown drill alarm was activated, the hallways, and gymnasium were almost immediately deserted.

Ohan, however, pushed the drill further by next having the fire drill activated to learn if teachers would respond to that. They did not.

Next, he assigned a handful of students to pound loudly on the doors of classrooms, begging to be let in. Again, no teacher took the bait.

Then police officers pounded on the door identifying themselves only as “Hancock police officer,” “sheriff’s deputy,” or “Michigan State Police.” Every door remained locked, lights stayed off, and the school appeared deserted.

The school may or may not have been completely deserted, except for the officers, the students involved in the drill, Ohan, and SuperintendentKipp Beaudoin, who, unarmed, nonetheless swept the school with the officers.

Whether the teachers led students out of the building, hid them in classrooms or other rooms is not known.

But while officers recommended a few changes, teachers and students mostly demonstrated they are properly trained and prepared to respond to a lockdown.

Of the recommended changes, Ohan said the School Board and staff will receive the detailed results of the lockdown drill, and those issues will be addressed.