Last Wednesday at 3:37 p.m. the Page Police Dept. responded to an anonymous 911 call about a person with a gun.
According to Detective Terry TerEick, Public Information Officer for the Page Police Dept., the call did not say there was a person with a gun at the middle school, but the call was plotted to the middle school using GPS tracking.
The Page Middle School immediately implemented an emergency hard lockdown, securing the children on campus in a designated room with the lights off. The middle school staff instructed the students to stay quiet, turn off the sound and brightness of their cell phones and remain hidden under the desks until the emergency was cleared.
The Page Unified School District regularly holds lockdown drills for active shooter situations and the students responded quickly.
Emergency response units from the Page Police Dept., the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department, the Highway Patrol, Department of Public Safety, National Park Service, the Page Fire Department, the Arizona Game and Fish and the Bureau of Land Management, all responded to the call and surrounded the campus.
Anybody within a block radius of the middle school were stopped and told to remain parked until the scene was cleared.
Because the situation occurred in the jurisdiction of the Page Police Dept. they took charge of the situation, and the other agencies acted as support, said Det. TerEick.
After the perimeter was secured the police officers then entered the school building and moved room to room checking each room searching for a person with a gun.
“Any time we hear of asituation of a gun on campus, and we don’t have any more information to go off, we treat it like there’s a shooter on campus,” said Det. TerEick.
No person with a gun was found.
It took about an hour to clear the building. After officers cleared the building the lockdown was lifted and the students were allowed to leave.
While the situation was ongoing, parents of the students quickly learned that this was not a drill. Students were allowed to text their parents to let them know they were okay.
Page Unified District Security and staff were onsite to keep the worried parents and concerned citizens from going into the building to find their children.
“My kids are still in there and I can’t call to see if they’re alright,” said a concerned father who was standing on the perimeter of the scene waiting for the building to be cleared.
“The police are dressed in full gear. I am really worried about my kids. I just want to talk to them.”
Units from the Page Police Dept., the Coconino County Sheriff’s Department, the Highway Patrol, Department of Public Safety, National Park Service, the Page Fire Department, the Arizona Game and Fish and the Bureau of Land responded to the call within minutes.
Rob Varner, superintendent for the Page Unified School District, was pleased with the way his teachers and staff responded, as well as the EMS agencies.
“We practice these scenarios at our schools all the time,” said Supt. Varner. “We practice soft and hard lock downs, we practice for active shooter situations.”
The school district had practiced for an active shooter scenario with law enforcement just the Sunday before. During the training the officers went through various active shooter scenarios, which included entering the school, sweeping it room by room before securing it.
Before Wednesday’s incident Supt. Varner and Page Police Chief Frank Balkcom have discussed plans to have an officer in their schools.
“I was very impressed with the response and coordination of the agencies that responded,” said Supt. Varner. “It was a much different response than what happened in Florida. As soon as they had the perimeter secured they didn’t hesitate going inside [the building].
Page Police and Page Unified School District will continue to hold multi-agency meetings to streamline training and coordinate unified response measures in case of future threat situations.
The incident is still under investigation.