Columbia High School practices emergency evacuation drill - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Columbia High School practices emergency evacuation drill

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EAST GREENBUSH, N.Y. - Students and school staff conducted a practice evacuation drill at Columbia High School with the East Greenbush Police Department on Tuesday morning.

School officials say the drill allowed nearly 1,500 students to experience what an evacuation would be like following the declaration of a "Shelter in Place" scenario, in which a threat to students and staff has entered the building.

School officials and law enforcement officers simulated the process of evacuating the students and staff to designated buses, and then transport them to Howard L. Goff Middle School for about an hour. The drill took place at 10 a.m.

"You have to be proactive," says Principal John Sawchuk.

The drill comes following a string of recent shooting and tragedies at schools across the country. In February 2004, Columbia High School was scene of a shooting when a 16-year-old opened fire at the East Greenbush school. A teacher trying to stop the student that day was shot in the leg, but no one else was injured.

Principal Sawchuk was considered a hero in that case, when he took down the gunman and got the gun away.

"The number one tool that we have is the drills that will put our people in the best positions possible to stay safe," says Sawchuk.

Given that perspective, he says the evacuation went smoothly, students took it seriously, and he plans to continue holding more like them.

"You can't ask someone to be accountable for something that they've never done before, so just giving them a taste for that and I think the big part is openly communicating with them and saying to them heres what your role is, heres how it's going to roll out and he's why it's going to roll out this way, so they know," he says.

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