Teachers get training for active shooter exercise

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, MO (KTVI) - Hearts were pounding as the smell of gunfire filled the hallways of the Rockwood School District Early Childhood Center in Clarkson Valley, Wednesday.

FOX 2 was there for “active shooter” training with the St. Louis County Police Department.

It felt real for about 200 preschool teachers and staff.   It was no longer you just lie awake and worry about.

“It might have been ‘fake’, but my heart is pounding right now and you can smell the cap gun smoke.  There’s a lot of realistic aspects of this,” said Dr. Jane Brown of the Rockwood School District.

She was among those who police put through three active shooter scenarios, using the four “E” strategy they learned about prior to the drill:  educate, escape, evade, and engage.

Engaging the shooter was the last resort.  But the teachers and staff were focused on being ready instead of afraid.

“If there’s no other way between you and escape, you have to engage,” said Matt Burns of the St. Louis County Police Department, one of the instructors.  “You have to do what you have to do to get out and survive.”

In one scenario, teachers came face to face with the intruder, throwing whatever they had to disrupt the shooter so they could either escape or buy more time to protect themselves, and most importantly, the little ones who fill the classrooms.

It was scary even tearfully so.  But the lessons learned were also empowering.

“[The staff will] be able to react because before today I think they might have frozen,” Brown said.

“It’s important that you have confidence in what you’re going to do.  The program just empowers people to make the right decision, to do whatever it takes to escape, evade, to engage,” Burns said.

The big key was to think about it and picture how you'd escape, if possible, or evade and lastly engage to protect yourself and those around you, police said.