Lockdown drill at Park City High
A SWAT team in black combat gear with machine guns and dogs swarmed into Park City High Wednesday morning as a drill, responding to the rash of recent school shootings around the country.
The Summit County Sheriff’s office and the Park City Police Department staged the drill, a response to a mock assault on the school.
"That’s crazy! That’s cool," said Park City High junior Brooks Finlinson, 17, as he witnessed the SWAT team move in on his school.
Park City police cars arrived, and soon around 35 officers from the force moved onto the school campus. Answering the call for assistance, the Sheriff’s department sent in 25 deputies and SWAT team members with K-9 units. All responding officers carried unloaded firearms.
Students arriving late to school were directed to safe areas on campus and locked inside. All entrances were locked. Students inside the buildings were directed by teachers administrators and SWAT team members. Students had been instructed in past drills to stay away from windows, and get down low until officers arrived.
"This was a good idea because of the shootings," said Amy Kuster, a senior at Park City High, "It’s a good wake-up call."
As teachers and students took cover, the heavily armed SWAT team moved in with dogs to ‘sweep’ the buildings for suspects and stray students. The K-9 officers searched for suspects and explosive devices.
"This mock exercise simulates real time," said Summit County Sheriff David Edmunds, as the lockdown sequence unfolded. "First the police are called in. If it is a major situation the SWAT team is sent in," he said. "It’s going very well right now very well."
Edmunds spoke with passion. "It makes me physically ill that criminals are willing to shoot children," he said. "Nothing is more frightening to me as a father. No population is more vulnerable than school kids."
Teachers were made aware of the drill in advance, but intentionally, students were not. Law enforcement and school officials informed any parents observing the scene that the SWAT units and police cars on the high school grounds were taking part in a drill.
Park City Police Chief Lloyd Evans spoke of the importance of officers being familiar with the layout of a school. With the ongoing construction, the layout of Park City High School is constantly changing. "The fire department is an excellent resource," Evans said. "They keep us apprised on the construction and layout. They also give us maps and aerial views."
"It’s discombobulated here," said Edmunds. He said this drill would familiarize officers with the current layout of the buildings. He didn’t seem to think the trailers being used as classrooms posed any additional dangers as procedures followed by the students and teachers remain the same.
Edmunds said Park City High School contacted the Sheriff’s office and as a result the drill was planned.
Emergency plans are in place throughout Summit County. Edmunds said North and South Summit school districts have their own emergency plans, but that the sheriff’s office has agreements with them. "We have practiced here, not unlike what was done at Park City High, but with the children out of the building," Edmunds said. "We’re very proactive in that regard."
Assistant principal Dave McNaughtan compiled a list of students unaccounted for as he glanced out the window of the administration office of Park City High. "If there are crazies out there and they saw all this, (law enforcement response) maybe they’d think again."
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Park City Fire District Chief Paul Hewitt died Friday from injuries sustained in an off-duty accident earlier in the week, the agency announced.