Armed intruder drill takes place at Selah school

SELAH, Wash. -- School security took center stage Monday in Selah. In a drill, police responded as if someone with a gun came on campus and started shooting.

It wasn't real, but everyone there acted as if it was. Tragedies like Sandy Hook and last week's violence at Seattle Pacific University are the reasons drills like this are done.

"There's too much blood!" a student screams. "Someone help, please!"

It's one of several cries for help, part of a scenario that checks to see how well school administrators, police and paramedics work together.

An actor pretended to be a parent who lost custody of his daughter and, in frustration over not being able to see her, opened fire in her school.

"Nobody likes to think that something like this would ever happen anywhere," said Yakima Valley Office of Emergency Management Director Jim Hall. "But, all you have to do is look at the news and know it does happen."

Only about ten people knew how the scenario would unfold. Everyone else had to respond like they would if this was the real thing.

"When we were approached by the SWAT people, it was pretty real," said volunteer actor Ian Marko.

"It was trying not to talk on top of each other, so we learned about some protocols about communication," said Selah School District Superintendent Shane Backlund.

The focus on school security intensified locally after the deadly attack at Sandy Hook, a threat that hit closer to home after the recent shooting at Seattle Pacific University.

While local administrators are thankful they haven't seen anything like that in Yakima County, they aren't strangers to students bringing guns on campus. In fact, there were six such incidents last year and almost two dozen locally two years ago.

Those real threats bring home the importance of a drill like this.

"People learn by doing, and that's what this is about," said Hall.

Security will go one step further in Toppenish this fall. ESD 105 says school employees who have the proper training will be allowed to carry guns on school property.

Seventeen evaluators from fire departments, police agencies, hospitals and schools were there to watch the drill. They'll look at the response and determine if any changes are needed to their emergency plans. Their review should be done in a month.