In case a school shooting occurs, the police department went over security procedures and training tools on how to help keep kids safe.
The Berlin Police Department, along with police departments from Berlin Township, Voorhees and Waterford townships, conducted a presentation at Berlin Community Elementary School on school lockdown and security procedures in case a school shooting ever occurs. Since the 2012 school shooting at Sandy Hook in Connecticut, these presentations have become common in school districts across the country.
Det. T.J. Varano led the presentation, explaining various procedures and training tools on how to help keep kids safe. The presentation also included teaching school employees the mindset and history of active shooters, as well as a simulated blank firing of guns that sounded exactly like real guns.
“We did this because if you hear gun fire, the first time we all hear gun fire, you immediately freeze,” Varano said. “If something ever happened and you heard gun fire in the hallways or in the classroom, you would know right away that’s gunfire and say, here’s what we’re doing. Not, was that gunfire? Taking that extra second or extra minute to realize what the sound is is extra time you could be using to get the kids in a safe place.”
Varano also explained how police officers would arrive on the scene as quick as they could, but until they arrive, he said the teachers should “think like warriors.”
“We will be there, but until we’re there, you are the first line of defense,” he said. “We need you to be aggressive and feel confident in what you’re doing.”
Police Capt. Carmen Del Palazzo said being in the right mindset is half the battle.
“If your mindset is ‘don’t worry, it’s not going to happen here, why are we training,’ I’m telling you right now, you need to change it,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is the world we live in today, whether we like it or not.”
Sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grader teacher Jenn Zingaro said the presentation was invaluable.
“I’m so thankful that our district and the police officers made a commitment to this,” she said. “As teachers and staff in the building, it’s something we unfortunately think about everyday. My classroom is the first one when you walk in the door, and I have a wall of windows, so to know where to put the kids and to have that plan in place is invaluable. I feel this is empowering and lessens the anxiety we hear about school violence.”
Matt Jenkins, health and physical education teacher, echoed her statements.
“I think it’s definitely what we need at this time considering the circumstances of how the world is these days,” he said. “It was eye-opening, scary, important, definitely something meaningful, and I think it’s going to help prepare us heaven forbid something did happen.”