On Saturday, June 4, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Ocean View Police Department, along with the Millville Volunteer Fire Department, Delaware State Police and other state agencies, will hold a closed School Plan Emergency Action Response (SPEAR) drill at Lord Baltimore Elementary School, during which Old School Lane will be closed.
“There’ll be a [mock] incident that unfolds at the school, where there will be multiple injuries to the students. The goal is to test the response,” explained Ocean View Police Chief Ken McLaughlin, “and then, of course, critique it and identify any deficiencies in the response. This will be as real as possible… Multiple agencies will be responding.”
In 2002, the OVPD began looking at critical infrastructure in the area and identified L.B. as a small area with a high concentration of people.
“There’s around 650 students and about 50 staff on school property on any given school day. There’s really no other place in southeastern Sussex County that has such a high concentration of people unless you go toward the high school,” said McLaughlin. “There are no known threats but, with that said, we always need to be prepared. We’re hoping that the lessons learned will benefit the emergency responders even outside of the school setting.”
During the exercise, which is closed to the public, members of Ocean View Boy Scout Troop 281 will portray students in the emergency scenario, the details of which is being kept under wraps so that those who respond will be entering into the drill unaware of what they will face.
The Unified Command System, a product of the National Information Management System (NIMS), will be in use during the exercise, which will help officials from various agencies manage and organize the situation.
“It might be the police chief, the fire chief, and the three of those together would work in the command post and manage the incident together jointly, so we have the different disciplines represented,” he explained.
McLaughlin said the exercise will help emergency personnel prepare for any disaster event.
“That includes very small stuff out to large-scale events,” he explained. “All these events are organized, planned and carried out in a unified fashion. If they took five officers from OVPD and few us out to Missouri, we would be able to seamlessly integrate because it’s the exact same system we have out here.”
McLaughlin said he hopes no such preparedness will ever be needed in reality, noting the overall goal is to keep the community safe.
“Always, our goal is to make sure our school is safe. We’ve got a great community; we’ve got an awesome school. Our goal in the police department is to do everything we can to make sure the students and staff at the Lord Baltimore school is able to enjoy themselves and be educated in a safe environment,” he said. “Hopefully, our planning and our drill will result in a quicker and safer response time.”