East Providence Police perform 'Active Threat' exercise at Riverside Middle School

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EAST PROVIDENCE — It's an unfortunate reality for students, administrators and law enforcement, but it has become a necessary evil in the wake of the innumerable acts of violence that have occurred in schools across the country in recent years.

Friday, May 22, pupils and staff at Riverside Middle School participated in what was called an "Active Threat" drill in conjunction with the East Providence School Department.

The exercise is a component of an ongoing partnership between the EPPD and the East Providence School

Department. Friday's event was termed a progressive training exercise for all those involved.

Over the last year plus, the EPPD has worked closely with the school department in reformulating its response techniques to potential violent acts in schools. The process accelerated in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Connecticut late in 2012 followed by a false, though still frightening, case at East Providence High School where a student mistakenly believed a gun had been brought on campus.

The East Providence school, police and fire departments completed an update to the city's building emergency response package late last year and it was adopted by the school committee. EPPD Lieutenant Raymond Blinn was the point person during the process. Friday's exercise was part of the preparedness elements instituted upon the changes.

Lt. Blinn said two keys among the revisions were the inclusion of the "Run, Hide, Fight" response and the National Incident Management System (NIMS) approach supported by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). NIMS is a comprehensive response plan, which among other things sets up a standardized command and notification structure for emergencies.

"What we did was focus on identifying if a situation happened today where were deficient and where we needed to make improvements," Lt. Blinn said of the East Providence plan. "And if an incident occurred, how could we better manage and control it and minimize the impact."

Lt. Blinn said another important aspect of the revamped plan was finding ways to "delay the progression of the event." Locking down buildings is the first option, but the "Run, Hide, Fight" procedure can also be an effective tool, he continued.

The elements are somewhat self explanatory. "Run" basically is what it says. If students, teachers or school personnel can leave the scene, then they should. "Hide" occurs if escape is unattainable, thereby knowing the location of so-called "safe" positions in the building. "Fight," again, is basically what it says.

Lt. Blinn emphasized it is a means of "last resort" and a "survival mechanism," allowing adults and older children with the knowledge of how to engage a potential perpetrator in a means that could thwart the incident in a relatively responsible manner.

"FEMA and Homeland Security both backed these protocols," Lt. Blinn added. "They've proven successful in workplace incidents and several other school department across the country, the biggest being in Houston (Texas), have also adopted them."

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.