Superintendent praises quick response during school lockdown

Two schools impacted Friday; hospital access temporarily cut off

The superintendent for School District 20 is praising the actions of staff and students at J.L. Crowe Secondary School following an incident on Friday that resulted in a facility lockdown.

Calls to the police about loud bangs near Fourth Avenue in East Trail prompted emergency response action in two schools Friday afternoon.

Just before 1 p.m. a 911 dispatcher contacted the high school to initiate lockdown protocol as well as St. Michael’s Elementary School.

“The school handled the situation wonderfully as it was a more complicated situation that occurred over the lunch break,” Greg Luterbach, SD20 superintendent, told the Trail Times Monday. “Staff and students responded appropriately and we appreciate the local RCMP and how seriously and quickly they responded.”

Minutes after the 911 operator contacted the school, officers arrived on the scene while the school was in lockdown, explained Principal David DeRosa in an email.

“We practiced our lockdown procedure and students and staff reacted in a very timely fashion,” he said.

Based on the RCMP’s immediate investigation, police confirmed the noise was made by a firework, and had determined there was no rifle, said DeRosa.

“I updated staff and students with the information that we had,” he continued. “And that the RCMP had determined that our safety and the school was secure.”

He acknowledged to staff and students that a lockdown and related circumstances can be traumatic, and if anyone was feeling anxiety or wished to debrief with a counsellor or call home, they were encouraged to do so.

“Once students returned to classes, I thanked staff and students for their patience and cooperation,” DeRosa added.

Emergency response plans, including fire drills, are practised multiple times during the course of a year in all School District 20 (SD20) schools.

Cpl. Darryl Orr from the Trail RCMP detachment explained that officers immediately went into action when the call came in.

“We had two or three calls with one reporting fireworks and a couple of others saying there were loud bangs,” he said.

“We don’t go into it thinking it’s one or the other. We pretty much have to assume the worst until we rule that out.”

Seven RCMP members and the police service dog, which happened to be in Trail at the time, were on the scene within minutes to contain the area and close off the road to the high school and hospital.

Within a half hour, officers determined conclusively that the noises were related to fireworks set off by three youths.

“We wanted to make sure that was the case with both schools in lockdown procedures until such time we determined there wasn’t a fire arm,” Orr added.

He said police receive many possible gun shot calls that mostly turn out to be fireworks.

“Everybody sees and hears thing differently,” said Orr. “And we don’t assume. With this call, of course we’re happy it turned out to be nothing and everything went well.”

According to Orr, the students who set the fireworks off were identified and warned about their actions by officers, but any further discipline would be what the school deems appropriate.

By the time the lockdown ended at 1:30 p.m., Orr said an unexpected aspect to the call soon became apparent – heavy traffic congestion.

“We had to stop traffic going up to that road during containment of the area,” he said, referring to Hospital Bench, the only access road to the high school and regional hospital. “Nobody realizes how many people are going up there during the day. It’s amazing the number of vehicles and people heading up and leaving at any given time of the day.”

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