HOLDEN, Mass. — The doors at Wachusett Regional High School were shut and secured Wednesday morning, with no one allowed in or out until a team of public safety officials and administrators ensured the safety of the 2,100 students and 250 faculty members that make up the school's community.
Though it was just a drill, the lockdown was an important preparation for a worst-case scenario, like an active shooter roaming the halls, and public safety officials from all five Wachusett towns and West Boylston, the State Police, MEMA, and the Worcester County Sheriff's Office worked together to practice their tactical response.
Principal Bill Beando said protocol for lockdown has students calmly and quietly enter the nearest safe location, such as a classroom or auditorium, turn the lights off and stay away from the doors and windows.
"I walked around the large building and couldn't hear a kid," he said.
Beando said the lockdown could be used for any number of incidents, with the goal to ensure "kids were in the safest place, we knew where everybody was and how to get them if we needed to."
Holden Fire Chief Jack Chandler said that because the school is so large, Holden Fire and Police would rely heavily on mutual aid, "so we're trying to get all the other towns up here to get familiar with the school."
With so much ground to cover, Chief George Sherrill said the biggest challenge for public safety officials is communication, which is why the drill also brought in the resources of three communications vehicles from the State Police, the sheriff's office, and MEMA.
Chandler added that one of the difficulties in an emergency that calls for so much mutual aid is that the different radio frequencies used by each agency, and the mobile units would be brought in "to get us all to one common frequency."
Sherrill said that while the lockdown helped them see some mistakes, a lot of positive came out of the drill.
"That's why we do this, to see the little flaws and correct them and learn from it," he said.
"It's really similar to a fire drill," added Chandler. "We do four or fire drills a year, so that when it does happen — and it's not if it happens it when it happens — it's just going to be a routine thing for the kids and they'll know what to do."