Mock incident at Manitoulin Secondary School demonstrates preparedness for lockdown situation

Officers with the Manitoulin-Espanola OPP and UCCM Anishinaabe Police Service enter Manitoulin Secondary School during a mock incident late last week. photo by Lori Thompson

M’CHIGEENG––It is an unfortunate reality but in today’s world, our schools are mandated to practice lockdown procedures to ensure the safety and security of students and staff should an actual event occur.

On this past Friday, April 8, there was a simulated lockdown.  “Manitoulin-Espanola OPP Community Services Officer (CSO) Marie Ford actually approached the school about simulating an actual event,” said Jamie Mohamed, principal of Manitoulin Secondary School. “It was good to have the opportunity for the police service to enter and go through the building. It was similar to what they would go through in a real situation but we do this regardless. One difference was that in a typical lockdown, kids are in their classes. We did this scenario during a transition period. It was interesting to see the OPP, staff and students react to that scenario and I applaud everyone. They did a fantastic job.”

Mr. Mohamed was pleased with how everyone reacted to the lockdown procedures. “We do this on a regular basis, just like a fire drill,” he said. “We need the students to be well prepared in case it’s necessary.”

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Staff and students at MSS practice six fire drills a year and two of three scenarios: lockdown, shelter in place, or hold and secure.

Shelter in place occurs when there is an environmental risk to a school such as a chemical leak in the community. In this situation everyone remains indoors until further notice.

When there is an external threat to the school, staff and students go into hold and secure. During a hold and secure the doors are locked, blinds are closed and lights are turned off. Normal classroom activities are maintained.

A lockdown occurs when the threat comes from within the school. Doors are locked, blinds closed and lights are turned off. Everyone moves to the location in the room where it is most difficult to be seen from the classroom door window. Any students that are outside the building during a lockdown will be escorted to a predetermined gathering location.

Manitoulin-Espanola OPP and UCCM Anishnaabe Police Services collaborated in this drill with M’Chigeeng First Nation and Billings fire departments and local EMS. Sergeant Michael Patterson, Manitoulin-Espanola OPP, Gore Bay detachment, explained, “Police, fire and ambulance participate in the event and it allows us to test our interoperability, and for members of each service to familiarize themselves with the layout of the school and to practice their involvements in these situations.”

“The schools are mandated to do two lockdown drills a year,” Sgt. Patterson continued. “The purpose of the drill is to test the school’s readiness should a real lockdown be necessitated. A lockdown could be called for any number of reasons, and is called at the discretion of the school principal. It would be used when there is a major incident or threat of school violence within the school or in relation to the school.”

“In this case, the school did an excellent job and appears ready for a lockdown event. The students and teachers know their role in a lockdown situation and it was evident during this exercise. “

“We also do two mandated lockdown drills a year with all of the Rainbow District School Board schools,” said CSO Ford. “Manitoulin Secondary School is a fantastic school with really good students and supportive staff. We were impressed with how quickly they responded to the lockdown drill.”

UCCM CSO Constable Murray Still noted the importance of their partnership in events such as this, where the proximity of the school to UCCM Police Services means it is likely their officers who would be some of the first responders to the scene.

The drill went very quickly, according to Mr. Mohamed, with the officers in and through the building with speed. “They checked the doors and rooms to make sure they couldn’t see anybody,” he said. 

A debriefing was held afterwards. “There were some things we saw where they could do things a little differently but all in all, it went very well,” said CSO Still.

No one anticipates a situation that requires a lockdown. It’s good to know that everyone is prepared in the event it does occur.