Residents who live near Licking Heights schools should not panic if they see armed officers and hear sirens -- and maybe even gunshots -- next Thursday morning.
On June 19, beginning at 8 a.m., Licking Heights will hold a simulated live shooter event to test the district's security equipment, which includes a live camera feed to the Pataskala Division of Police and biometric scanners for entrance into the buildings.
"We're going to make it as realistic as possible," Superintendent Philip Wagner said.
Wagner said the Ohio School Boards Association is sponsoring the simulation and agreed to do so because the district has increased its security.
He said police have access to the district's security cameras whenever they are called or an alarm is activated in one of the buildings. For example, police could monitor an intruder's movements in real time.
Police also are able to monitor the buildings during weekends and after school hours.
Wagner emphasized, however, that the system is not designed to allow police constant surveillance of district buildings when there is no emergency situation. Police do not "spy" on the buildings, he said.
"This is really a test of the (security) system," Wagner said.
He said 911 would be called just as if a live shooter had entered the building, and police would respond accordingly.
Pataskala police Chief Bruce Brooks said his department would respond with sirens blazing.
"They want to do it as realistic as possible," he said.
Brooks said this is an excellent opportunity for the police department to test its live camera feed.
Frankly, he said, he hopes some minor issues would present themselves so he will know where the department can improve on the system.
"I'm sure we will (find glitches), but that's why we do it," Brooks said.
If available, a SWAT team from Columbus will participate as well. There might even be blank gunshots fired.
While no students are in the buildings for the summer, part of the simulation's purpose is to train roughly 30 staff members to defend themselves and students against intruders.
Eventually, Wagner said, simulations could include students and more staff members.
Wagner said he feels very good about the district's current security system and even those who pass the biometric scanners can't make it past the buildings' vestibules without permission.
He said it's been 50 years in the United States since a student has died in a school fire because fire drills and fire detection and suppression equipment are so effective, so school districts must do the same to protect themselves against intruders.
"Unfortunately, that's becoming more common," he said.