Helicopters Hired, Oregon School Prepares for Active Shooter Drill

Readers — An Oregon high school is planning to stage the most apocalyptic shooter drill yet. According to local public NPR station, KLCC:

If Elmira High school students go to school on April 27th, they’ll be in an active-shooter role play drill. This is Chris Heppel, who’s coordinating the helicopters that will fly in to transport fake victims.

 “We’ll have some type of an incident transpire where a number of folks are injured by a firearm. We’ll have students and parents, as well as some faculty practice our response to that.”

The piece explains that while most local schools are already protected by fences, security cameras, locked doors and, at this particular one, what sounds like a part-time guard with a gun (the students worry that sometimes she is busy at the middle school) , apparently the district still feels a drill like this is prudent.

I feel it’s not, for several reasons:

1 – The chances of a shooting at any school are tiny. Do a drill if you’d like, but don’t magnify the likelihood of this incredibly unlikely event.

2 – The need to practice a helicopter evacuation seems particularly unnecessary, in that the helicopter(s) would be there after the danger. (And I hate even writing sentences like, “The helicopters would be there…” because it starts making the scenario seem more real.)

3 – Money spent on one thing means money not spent something else. Spend it on worst-case-scenario pre-enactments (my new word!) and you have less for books, band instruments, and field trips to places that are in daily but less “exciting” danger, like neighborhoods where kids go hungry.

4 – We have got to stop focusing on rare tragedies as if they are an imminent threat. Said it before and I’ll say it again: The terrible fact that some kids have been hurt somewhere, sometime, does not mean all kids are now in danger, everywhere, all the time. Let’s get a grip. – L.

Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's the school budget fiscal year 2013!

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the school budget fiscal year 2013!

63 Responses to Helicopters Hired, Oregon School Prepares for Active Shooter Drill

  1. Davis March 5, 2013 at 8:50 am #

    Yes ma’am! Magnification of fear does not teach us to listen to our INTUITION …just sayin’.

  2. Violet March 5, 2013 at 8:55 am #

    Sequestration may be a good thing.

  3. Paul March 5, 2013 at 8:56 am #

    Talk about helicopter parenting….

  4. Captain America March 5, 2013 at 8:58 am #

    It Lager Amerika, there is a good dollar to be made in the Disaster Simulation industry! yessir!

  5. Emily March 5, 2013 at 9:14 am #

    What a crazy waste of resources, and I don’t just mean school resources either. What if someone, somewhere, is legitimately injured and needs to be airlifted to the hospital, but all the helicopters are busy doing paranoid pre-enactments (love the expression, Lenore) to promote “safety” at various public schools? That’s why I really hope this practice doesn’t catch on.

  6. derpdedoo March 5, 2013 at 9:21 am #

    What will be the response when someone fires an antiaircraft missile at the helicopter, causing it to explode and debris crashes into the jail ya– sorry, school yard? They better drill for this otherwise I totally agree this is a waste of money.

  7. BL March 5, 2013 at 9:29 am #

    Let’s have a drill for when the schools are taken over by an unaccountable, tyrranical …

    Oh, too late.

  8. Chad G March 5, 2013 at 9:30 am #

    The reality is bringing an actual helicopter into the school area is many times more dangerous and likely to cause a injury and death than the likely hood of a shooter.

  9. Dave March 5, 2013 at 9:40 am #

    A total waste of money spent on needlessly scaring student. The principal should lose his job over this one.

  10. Erika March 5, 2013 at 9:48 am #

    These drill have nothing to do with safety — they are about training us and pure children to accept the methods and ideology of totalitarianism. Which we seem to be happily eating up with spoons.

  11. mighthavejoy March 5, 2013 at 9:58 am #

    How can they even afford to do this? Here in Oregon, schools are in a sorry state due to years of consecutive budget cuts. After cutting funding for programs, maintenance, and supplies; reducing teacher pay, having annual rounds of layoffs, and unpaid work days; cutting out school days; and running schools on bare-bones budgets for years, the big news this week is that the rainy day funds are completely depleted and both federal and major state funding are gone, so we need to brace ourselves for some REAL cost-cutting.

    So some genius hires a helicopter and potentially scars a generation of students for life. Of course!

  12. Gene March 5, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    Interesting choice of helicopter picture. The one you chose is that of the Bell 533, an experimental version of the familiar Huey of the Vietnam War era. The Bell 533 is among the fastest pure helicopters ever built with a top speed of over 300mph. It was flight tested in the late 1960s.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bell_533

  13. Captain America March 5, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    Good way to frighten the snot out of little kids, and amuse the teachers for a day!

  14. Warren March 5, 2013 at 10:28 am #

    I immediately got a mental pic of the helicopters blaring music on approach in Apocalypse Now.

  15. Keri March 5, 2013 at 10:29 am #

    This seems so far overboard. When I was a senior in high school, we were all required to go out to the football field one day and watch a simulated drunk driving accident. People we knew were in the car covered in fake blood, screaming, 2 were playing dead, all the emergency services were there….it was quite realistic. But teens drunk driving and killing people here where I live happens WEEKLY, so I think it was necessary, and we were all 18 or nearly 18. But this?? It feels like the school is teaching voilence, not safety, and these children aren’t of an age to know that the adults around them are totally off the reservation with this. What a sad day for this school.

  16. Mike in Virginia March 5, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    @Keri, I remember watching some gruesome scare videos as part of driver’s education in High School. Those videos really helped me be a better driver. Car accidents are a far more likely danger for kids and a good example of where money can be redirected to help save lives. And as horrible and gruesome as those car accident videos / reenactments, etc., are, we are talking about teenagers, who are far more mature and capable of handling something like that. I can’t imagine what this type of drill does to the mind of an elementary school aged child.

  17. Eric Jaffa March 5, 2013 at 10:46 am #

    This exercise normalizes school shootings.

    The effect on the students will be to make them more fearful. It will also unintentionally tell them that if they hate their lives, then bringing guns to school is a normal response.

  18. Gina March 5, 2013 at 11:07 am #

    “Pre-enactment”–great word!

    My kids would be absent that day, for sure.

  19. Amy March 5, 2013 at 11:12 am #

    I would like to know if the school is staging this or if it is simply being staged at the school. Training excercises like this aren’t necessarily drills for the students but training for first responders.

  20. joanne March 5, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    April 27th is a Saturday so it could be a training drill and not an actual school sponsored drill.

  21. pentamom March 5, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    Yes, it sounds like it’s being hyped. “If…students go to school on April 27,”

    IT’S A SATURDAY. There’s no reason to think any students WILL go to school.

    This sounds like a drill for safety personnel, not students, with various people voluntarily play-acting the given scenario.

    It’s still over the top, but it’s still on a different level from involving kids in this during the normal school day.

  22. Katie March 5, 2013 at 12:22 pm #

    Waste of tax payer dollars.

  23. Hels March 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm #

    I agree that it sounds a first-responder drill. When I was a student, I volunteered for a similar police exercise held at a local school – they asked for volunteers who were at least 18 years old… My role was to play a shooting victim, one of the very first people shot dead in a potential attack. I learned that it was rather hard to play dead, and that dead bodies aren’t being handled nearly as carefully as the still living ones. I haven’t done it since, but it was an interesting experience.

    Then later I really wanted to volunteer in similar drills as a healthcare provider, but the timing never worked out…

  24. Hi, I'm Natalie. March 5, 2013 at 12:34 pm #

    That is absolutely insane. Sounds like a good way to encourage kids to go gun-crazy, though – shows how much attention they’d get. O_o

  25. LTMG March 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    Check the frequency rates for helicopter accidents, even for when the helicopters do not have an urgent mission. I am guessing, and am likely correct, that the probability of the helicopter participating in the training will have an accident – and possibly injuring students – is far greater than the probability of death or injury due to an on-campus gunman. Somebody planning and/or approving the training is not thinking proportionately, and may be putting students at risk.

  26. Green Eagle March 5, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

    Maybe they are just practicing in case they have to get rid of the Pope.

  27. lollipoplover March 5, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

    And yet these school boards cry poor that they can’t afford books and basic supplies and Johnny still can’t read.
    Helicopters! It’s like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.

  28. Deb March 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm #

    Let’s get a grip, indeed. Populist paranoia really gets under my skin.

  29. name March 5, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    One could assume from the way the NPR piece is written that the person playing the role of “helicopter coordinator” in the simulation will be just acting in that part. In other words, it may not necessarily mean that they will actually really be flying helicopters around during the simulation. All things considered it seems very, very, very unlikely that they would include flying helicopters in this. Would love to see confirmation from Eugene one way or the other.

  30. name March 5, 2013 at 1:36 pm #

    Here is the relevant sentence from the article:
    “This is Chris Heppel, who’s coordinating the helicopters that will fly in to transport fake victims.”

    So it does seem to mean that the plan is to use flying helicopters in the simulation. It sure raises more questions than it answers.

  31. Katie March 5, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    Okay, so ironically about 2 hours after reading this I saw a piece on the BBC about the Bethnal Greenwartime Memorial that completely reminded me of this. I’ll over both a link and a summary, but the idea is that a false alarm of a bombing set of a panic. Someone slipped in the false alarm and it caused a domino effect that killed 173 people-more than died from bombings.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-21646633

  32. CrazyCatLady March 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    Meanwhile, in Hanford WA, we have REAL radiation leaking from tanks that were never meant to last this long anyhow, and about a thousand or more workers trying to clean that mess up are going to be furlowed.

    Yup, it makes sense to me to spend money on a fake thing that may never happen in their state. And I am sure that there is federal money supporting this.

  33. Bacopa March 5, 2013 at 2:47 pm #

    The effect on the students will be to make them more fearful. It will also unintentionally tell them that if they hate their lives, then bringing guns to school is a normal response.

    I absolutely think this is correct. The media coverage of the shootings gives a kind of sick celebrity status to the shooters and drills might just make becoming a shooter seem just a little more normal to a potential shooter.

  34. hineata March 5, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    @Katie – thanks for the link. Wasn’t that sad? A little different to what is happening here, of course, because in London at that time obviously air raids were a real issue, (rather than an extremely unlikely event) but how ironic that the worst loss of life came from a false alarm…

  35. hineata March 5, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

    About the helicopters, though….

    Helicopters are seriously cool. Couldn’t they at least stay after this silly ‘drill’ and take people for sightseeing rides, charging them of course? Then you could turn the drill into a fundraising activity.

    If you have to have these silly drills, you could also maybe hold a silent auction for the right to play a ‘victim’.

    Playing the scenario properly, I think there is the potential to make money here for the school.

  36. Stacey March 5, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

    If I lived in Conneicuit I would have actually felt safer after the shooting. My reasoning wwould be that shootings are so rare, there’s more chance of them happening when they haven’t happened before. Once it’s happened, you are almost guarenteed that it won’t happen again in the same area in the near future. However, if I had children i’d’ve let them stay home for a few days because I wouldn’t expect them to accept this line of reasoning quickly. For adults, this line of reasoning should be easy to understand and so should the reasoning that helicopters are an unnecesary waste of money that could’ve been spent on computers, library books, gym equipment, musical instuments, whiteboard markers, classroom supplies, science lab equipment, and a number of other educational things.

  37. Shannon March 5, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    It is a first responder drill. None of the helicopter money will come from the school budget. My brother was a “victim” a decade ago when we had one at our school. The stupid thing about it is that they kept the whole thing a secret from all of the students so when I showed up late the school was dead. Anyway, nothing happened except for a wasted school day. And students being freaked out that something really happened.

  38. Murderbunny March 5, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    Am I the only one who thinks a shooting drill like this sounds like fun?

    Helicopters! Cops! SWAT team! Guns! Bad guys raiding the school! Bodies on the ground! Let’s turn our school into an action-movie set! Wheeeeeeee!

  39. Crystal March 5, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    I grew up near Elmira, and my school was in the same sports league. I know that area and its people well, since they’re just like my hometown. It’s small and rural. The kids are mostly country, know how to hunt/fish and in general live pretty independent lives.

    I’m thinking there’s no way under the sun the administrator(s) who came up with this idiotic idea are local. And yes, Oregon schools are in dire straits financially. Thank God for private, charter and home schools.

  40. Ellie March 5, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

    Maybe the students being exposed to a “horrible mass shooting” drill complete with fake gunfire pretend dead bodies and real helicopters might need counseling afterwards.

    A lot more than the kids who saw the little boy chew his Pop-Tart into a gun shape.

    This is why so many people in other countries think Americans are crazy.

  41. Donna March 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

    I’m with Murderbunny. This sounds like great fun to me. A complete waste of money probably but still fun.

  42. Ben March 5, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    This school gives a whole new meaning to the term helicopter parenting, and they’re not even parents…

  43. Capnbob45 March 5, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    It is probably a county/city police driven drill for which the school pays nothing (except the sanity of its students) and funded by money from the department of Father… I mean Homeland Security. After 9/11 and the generation of DHS, Bush requested and Congress voted for a huge amount of money to be made available to police and fire departments. The fire departments, a lot ow which are all volunteer have to beg for a trickle of cash while the police departments have it dumped on them willy nilly. Have you ever wondered why the PD has all of those special vehicles ranging from anti-drug vans to armored personnel carriers? It is because they are given more money than they know what to do with. I’ll bet that the local volunteer fire guys have to take vacation days to be at this drill! Anyway, it is a ridiculous idea to involve students in an EXERCIZE like this. If they want to do it they should do it on a weekend and use volunteers, not students.

  44. pentamom March 5, 2013 at 9:18 pm #

    “If they want to do it they should do it on a weekend and use volunteers, not students.”

    They ARE doing it on a weekend. The first line of the article Lenore quotes is a clever bit of hyping — “If” students happen to go to school that day…only they won’t, BECAUSE IT’S A SATURDAY!!!!

    The KLCC report is coming from a rather hysterical perspective, equivocating and lumping together weekend first responder drills with schooltime drills meant to involve the students. The only students that will be involved in this one is those who either show up as volunteers, or don’t know they’re not supposed to go to school on Saturday.

  45. Alex Blaze March 5, 2013 at 10:13 pm #

    helicopters are dangerous. Someone who knows the numbers should find out of running this simulation with numbers will save more lives than risk being lost by the helicopter crashing.

    it’s like with those full body scanners at the airport – radiation on them was low, but after running the numbers they found that the cancer risk was higher than the risk of being in a terrorist attack.

  46. b March 6, 2013 at 12:09 am #

    The idiot police dept. did that in my neighborhood at night! Helicopter barely cleared our tall treetops, less than 50 feet above a residential area. Landed in the school yard.
    They are banned from landing on the Met Life building in NYC due to a horrific crash years ago when it was called Pan AM.

    They crash, doesn’t make any difference if its a Saturday or not!

    No, they’re not cool.

  47. Warren March 6, 2013 at 12:18 am #

    For all of you shrugging this off as just another first responder drill………………..SORRY………….emergency services, police, fire and ambulance, including tactical teams already run active shooter drills and training, at training facilities, with actual senior officers acting as the shooter/s.

    The use training facilities for the cc cameras, and audio feedback. The also eliminate possible damage to private property as real explosives are used as well as non lethal ammunition, including rubber rounds, tasers and beanbag rounds.

    They do not for the most part employ the use of aircraft, because of the inherent risk, of low flying and landing.

    This is nothing more than one upmanship. One school had a shooter drill with real, yes blanks, but it is still live fire in the halls. So now lets go one step further.

    Problem is these drills are all expensive public relations bullshit. The tactical teams cannot perform the way they are trained to at an actual school. The school will not take kindly to doors blown off hinges, windows broken for entry, and the damage caused by flashbang grenades.

    This drill is nothing more than some politician saying LOOK WHAT I AM DOING, TO KEEP YOUR KIDS SAFE!

  48. Earth.W March 6, 2013 at 6:16 am #

    Certainly adds dimension to the term, Helicopter Parenting.

  49. Bernard Poulin March 6, 2013 at 7:47 am #

    As concerned and loving parents we would never hand over our children to authorities who would raise them to be frightened and submissive individuals. . . . . . . . . . .without putting up the most incredible lioness fight for “their” lives. . . . . . now would we.

  50. pentamom March 6, 2013 at 7:52 am #

    Warren — first responder drills also happen in public places. They are first cleared (as a school would be on a Saturday, or another place would be closed off to the non-participating public for the day.) Maybe not where you are, but in the U.S., they do. That’s not a new thing, either.

    It’s not just another first responder drill because they’re using helicopters, and that’s extreme. But it is not intended to involve the school population except insofar as those students or staff volunteer to show up the way any other citizen could.

  51. Warren March 6, 2013 at 9:39 am #

    Actually first responder drills do not take place in the public.
    Second wave responder drills to deal with evacuation, victims, and containment do.

    Tactical first reponders use methods, and equipment that make a public space inappropriate for their purposes.

    Active shooter drills will not use public volunteers, because of the risk of injury.

    Tactical teams do not pretend while performing these drills. They use flashbangs, they use rubber rounds, they use tasers, and other forms of non lethal actions. But non lethal actions can still lead to injuries, and property damage.

    All this is, is a jurisdiction trying to look better than the next, by holding a public display.

    Waste of time, money and common sense.
    This same drill could be done at an abandoned warehouse or building, and be just as effective. They are doing it at a school to look good. Nothing else.

  52. kharris March 6, 2013 at 12:25 pm #

    Far worse than a waste of time and money. Ask Vic Morrow whether spending time around a helicopter promotes safety. Land a helicopter near a school? Idiots.

  53. Donna March 6, 2013 at 12:51 pm #

    Really, Warren, because FEMA – the US federal government emergency organization – has a 4 volume manual about how to set up emergency preparedness drills for first responders that include full scale emergency drills such as this that are conducted by local first responders within their own communities. It even includes helpful little things like waivers to be signed by the volunteer actors used in the scenario. You can even get federal government grants to fund them.

    A brief perusal of the web found several incidents of active shooter drills taking place on college campuses and using student volunteers as actors.

    Now whether this is a good use of government funds is certainly debatable (and I’d side on the “no” side) but the fact that it is done – and with federal government encouragement and funds – is not.

  54. Warren March 6, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Donna,

    Do your homework. Those drills are not full scale by any stretch of the imagination. I highly doubt that any school wants windows broken, doors blown down, tear gas deployed and flashbangs deployed within their school.

    Those are what they use in training. If you cannot wrap your head around that, then attend a tactical training facility and witness what they do. I have, by invitation. I also have close friends that have been members of tactical response units, and have since rotated out.

    The drills that are on the web are watered down versions of the real thing. And actually do a disservice to all involved. They are merely smoke and mirrors to shut the whining public up about safety.

    Secondly for these drills to have any worth what so ever, they must be repeated on a regular basis. Once in a blue moon to get good press is not holding drills. It is putting on a show.

    A drill to be effective must be done over and over and over, from now until the end of time. You do not hold a drill, say well done, and be done with it. That is not a drill, it is a carnival side show.

  55. Warren March 6, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Oh by the way Donna, you talk about FEMA? If you want you can trust them, but a federal agency that takes 4 days to get freshwater to people isn’t high on my list of those who know what they are doing

  56. pentamom March 8, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    “Far worse than a waste of time and money. Ask Vic Morrow whether spending time around a helicopter promotes safety. Land a helicopter near a school? Idiots.”

    Look, I think this thing is very dumb and yes, creates unnecessary risk. But “take this example of this person who died this way” is EXACTLY the kind of bad thinking about risk that Lenore is trying to get people to stop doing. There are people you could “ask” if taking a bath is safe, too, who would “tell” you (if they weren’t dead) that it wasn’t.

    Helicopter are too dangerous to use unnecessarily, yes, let alone too expensive and leaving out the fact that Warren is right to the extent that a drill such as this, regardless of what it “really” is, is not actually going to make the world a safer place. But the “isolated anecdote about a person who was hurt doing X” method of argumentation does not belong on this blog.

  57. Library Diva March 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm #

    It seems a waste of money, definitely, but given that it’s on a Saturday and student participation is voluntary, I don’t think it will traumatize kids. I suspect the sole “trauma” to student participants would be the luck of drawing a twisted ankle as your injury when your friends drew chest wound and got to ride in the cool helicopters.

    I have more of a problem with the expense, given that Warren pointed out that this is mostly an expensive PR stunt. Even though it comes out the police budget and may even have been a line item in their budget, it’s still money that has been taken from somewhere else. That’s $10,000 (for example) that didn’t go towards maintaining a park, keeping a recreation program open, plowing the roads, staffing the city’s info and complaint hotline on a weekend, or putting more comfortable seating in the city’s meeting room.

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