The Mid-Coast School of Technology held a lock-down safety drill March 22 to practice in case there is ever a threat to the school.

Maine State Police Trooper Jeremiah Wesbrock said the Mid-Coast School of Technology was the first high school in the area to do this type of drill with law enforcement personnel. He said because of fire drills and training with firefighters, it has been more than 50 years since a student has been injured in a school fire.

“Now it is our job as police officers to step forward and protect the kids,” Wesbrock said, referring to the threat of school violence.

Rockland Deputy Police Chief Wally Tower said police officers routinely train for emergencies, such as a school shooting, but students and staff have not been participants in the training.

“Every year, schools conduct multiple fire drills to keep children safe and as a result, a student injury in a school fire is almost unheard of today,” Tower said in a news release. “Yet no training or emergency response drills involving students and staff have been conducted to address the school shootings taking place in today’s society across the country.”

Mid-Coast School of Technology Director Beth Fisher said there were lock-down drills held for both the morning and afternoon sessions at the school. There were approximately 150 students in each session. Fisher said the students quickly went to their assigned places of safety, and kept quiet. It took the morning session 23 seconds to disappear in the building. The afternoon session took only a little longer, about 30 seconds, Fisher said.

“You could not hear a sound,” Fisher said. “Everybody did exactly what they were supposed to do.”

Wesbrock said a school goes into lock-down mode when it is not safe for students and teachers to move around the school. The students and teachers are locked down until law enforcement arrives and the school is secured, he said.

The teachers at the Mid-Coast School of Technology have been going over the lock-down training with students, Fisher said. The March 22 lock-down drill was the first time the school practiced with law enforcement personnel. The drill included the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, the Rockland Police Department and the Maine State Police.

Ed Lee, the Mid-Coast School of Technology’s welding instructor and chairman of the school’s safety committee, spent many months researching the emergency response plans of other area schools and consulting with law enforcement officials to develop a plan. The teachers and staff received incident command training from Ray Sisk, director of the Knox County Emergency Management Agency. The Mid-Coast School of Technology has other assets for emergency planning, including Mike Drinkwater, firefighter and emergency medical technician instructor; maintenance director Steve Tuttle, who has experience in emergency management protocols; and Fisher, who has emergency and firefighter training in her former career as a marine engineer.

“All of these individuals devoted countless hours, and are highly trained, dedicated and committed to the safety of the students and staff,” Tower said.

The officers were at the school to provide feedback to the students, teachers and administrators, as well as to get familiar with the building, students and staff.

“During the planning, the school’s emergency response staff became well acquainted with law enforcement, and the teachers and students had the opportunity to interact with law enforcement officers,” Tower said. “This also provided law enforcement officers with very in-depth knowledge of the makeup and layout of the school, all of which creates a support network.”

Fisher said the issue of school violence needs to be an important part of training. She said students will follow the leadership of the teachers, who need to be comfortable with what they are supposed to do in a lock-down situation. That is why the lock-down drill was important, she said.

“We hope we never have to deal with the real thing but we live in the real world,” Fisher said.

Wesbrock said other schools can contact their local police departments to arrange a lock-down safety drill with law enforcement personnel. Other schools, such as Camden Hills Regional High School, have held emergency training sessions, but not specifically a lock-down drill with law enforcement officers present, he said. Wesbrock encouraged all schools to conduct lock-down safety training with their police department or the Maine State Police.

Tower said lock-down drills take approximately 15 minutes from start to finish. He said the Mid-Coast School of Technology hopes to conduct the training drills every semester so staff and students can be prepared for an emergency.

“It is also hoped that other schools will become involved in this very valuable training and preparedness,” Tower said.