Police will converge on Edgartown School for armed intruder response drill

State and Island public safety personnel will train Saturday morning for the worst case scenario.

State Police, Island police, fire, and emergency medical service personnel will converge Saturday on the grounds of the Edgartown School for a safety drill. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

State Police will join Island police, fire, and emergency medical service personnel Saturday, April 5, on the grounds of the Edgartown School where they will train for what was once the unthinkable, an armed intruder in the school.

Drill leaders want members of the public to be aware of the drill so they will not be alarmed by the presence of large numbers of police on the scene at the school.

“You drill for the worst-case scenario,” Edgartown deputy fire chief and ambulance coordinator Alex Schaeffer told The Times.

Mr. Schaeffer worked with the school and other emergency departments to develop the response plan. “We’ve never done a drill of this magnitude,” he said. “It’s the first time on the Island that police, fire and EMS from all towns have come together.”

It is all part of a response plan which has been in development since September, and follows a series of school shootings nationwide in recent years. No students will be involved in the drill.

Once it begins, police personnel and emergency vehicles, including a Massachusetts State Police helicopter, will converge on the scene. Access to surrounding streets will be temporarily limited.

The updated response plan is an Island-wide effort to protect students and faculty from an armed intruder. “The foundation that we’re putting forth here for our school could be put in place at any Island school, with a few changes due to geography,” Mr. Schaeffer said.

Response teams will not know what to expect, a strategy that the departments have used in the past to create realistic situations. “The whole scenario is like a movie, we’ve scripted it,” he said. “Not everyone knows what’s going to happen. We’ve given a time period, yes, but the scenario hasn’t been issued.”

The day is intended to be a learning experience — to discover what went right and what went wrong.

“We’re going to play it like any other day,” Edgartown police chief Tony Bettencourt said. “The officers will respond from home, which we’ve never done before. We’ll see how long it will take all the officers to prepare, get to the scene, how long it will take the other departments to get to the scene. Let’s try it, and critique our response.”

Drill leaders have been contacting neighbors of the school so that everyone is aware of the scope and magnitude of the training, Mr. Schaeffer said in a press release. “We hope, just like you, there is never an incident at the school requiring this response. However, the importance of all participating agencies knowledge and proficiency of this proactive plan cannot be understated. We appreciate your understanding of any inconvenience during the scheduled drill time. Thank you for your support.”