Preparing for the Worst: School Safety Part 2

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AUGUSTA, Maine (WABI) - When a mass shooting event happens, neutralizing the threat and treating the injured are the top priorities of first responders.

As more active shooter training is being requested by local police departments across the country, lawmakers at both the state and federal level seek funding to increase school safety.

With more schools conducting lockdown drills to simulate what to do in an active shooter situation, first responders are learning techniques to minimize the damage as much as possible during such an event.

Throughout American history, public school students have practiced safety drills to be prepared for whatever threat the country was facing at the time.

As schools across the country ramp up their lockdown procedures in the wake of several school shootings over the last few years, first responders are altering their approach to handling such events.

"We're trying to implement this strategy of a rescue task force where we get EMS to the patient at the point of wounding, which has been shown to increase survivability," said Winslow & Waterville Fire Chief David LaFountain.

Central Maine law enforcement, firefighters and EMT's got to train as a unit in April to better prepare for what they say would likely be the worst day of their careers.

"Historically fire and EMS would stay on the outside, would stay in what we call the 'cold zone.' And we would stay there until law enforcement had cleared a scene entirely and declared it to be safe to go in," said Lt. John Kooistra, a Portland paramedic.

To establish a quicker and more effective response, EMT's are now training to move into an active situation with police to help treat the wounded as quickly as possible.

"For law enforcement, first and foremost that's to deal with the threat and contain the threat, put the threat down- whatever needs to be done to stop the killing. The second part is as the focus on the threat decreases, we need to immediately start to shift our focus to the folks who are wounded to try to improve survival during these events," said Kooistra.

Launched in 2015 by the White House, 'Stop the Bleed' is a national awareness campaign and call to action to encourage bystanders to become trained and equipped to help in a bleeding emergency. It's being taught in some schools as well.

"So the idea is that everybody can learn how to control an active external hemorrhage and the goal is that nobody should ever die from active external hemorrhage. So the next logical focus had been on teachers because these events seem to take place commonly at schools. Well, certainly teachers, but also custodial staff, the cooks, literally everybody, the secretaries. Everybody, including students themselves," said Kooistra.

The Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act is working its way through the legislature in Washington, D.C. It appropriates $50 million a year for schools to develop threat assessments systems and improve security through the use of technology and increased personnel.

"Currently we have a School Revolving Renovation Fund and within that it deals with school improvements that aren't normally in a school's sort of operating maintenance budget. So they can apply for money through the Maine bond bank. A certain amount of forgiveness is in that and then the money is then paid back," said Rep. Patrick Corey, (R) Windham.

In Maine, lawmakers are debating a $20 million bond package to fund school safety improvements and to create a Maine School Security Enhancement Fund. That money would go towards security features for many of Maine's aging schools.

"The thing is a lot of these buildings were built prior to 1970 and this whole idea of crime prevention through environmental design really didn't come along until the early 1970's. So these schools are a little bit behind on the things they need to do in order to become more secure facilities. The newer ones have a lot of this stuff, the older ones don't necessarily," said Rep. Corey, the bond sponsor.

That bond package was one of many bills left in limbo when the legislature adjourned Wednesday.

It's expected to be voted on in a special session.