The lockdown drill at Hanaford Elementary School started like this: Principal Beth Cauley's voice over the intercom saying, "There is an emergency. Lockdown is in effect."
Then there was the sound of doors shutting. Just that. No voices. No footsteps.
It was only a drill, but it was the first lockdown drill since the shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., left 20 young students and 6 adult staff members dead.
Because of that, Cauley had warned students, staff and parents (via email) about the drill. She visited every class on Tuesday and answered questions from students – questions like, "What if I'm in the bathroom?" and "What if we're outside?"
She had answers for them. If a child is in the bathroom at the start of a lockdown, for instance, the child is to stay in the bathroom if he cannot get to a classroom within 15 seconds. In the bathroom, he is to lock the stall door, sit on the toilet and raise his feet.
"The students have to know the bathroom is a safe place to be if they can't make it to a classroom," Cauley said.
For students outside, they would always be accompanied by an adult, she said, and that adult would be in communication with the office by walkie-talkie. Right now the plan for that group would be to evacuate to a predesignated location.
During the actual drill, the students had only one job – to go to the designated area in the classroom and sit quietly, Cauley said. Teachers were to make sure the doors were locked and to draw down the shades. On Wednesday, that's what happened.
Cauley then went around to different classrooms and jiggled the door handles, attempting to get in. When that didn't work, she called out, "Is anyone there?" and "Let me in."
When it was suggested perhaps it would not seem realistic since the people inside the classroom would know it was Cauley, she said, "No. It could be me [trying to get in during an actual attack]. They have to know, not even for me do they open the door."
She continued, "There's one of me in the hallway. There's 25 of them in the classroom."
Such were the sober reflections during the district's first post-Newtown drill.
Unlike previous lockdown drills, there were several police officers present on Wednesday, including Chief Tom Coyle, who is planning to visit each school during a lockdown drill in the coming weeks.
"Today’s lockdown went very well," he said.
Our Lady of Mercy held a lockdown drill last week that police participated in, Coyle said. That drill also went smoothly.
OLM, like the EG public schools, has a buzzer entrance. All the schools had a policy in place, before Newtown, to keep outside doors locked during the school day. But doors were routinely propped open, especially in warmer weather. That needs to stop, officials said.
Additionally, main doors are now locked after school, a change from before. As Beth Cauley said, "It makes things less convenient, but it does provide a safer environment."
In addition, teachers are to keep doors locked, so that when they are pulled shut they lock. Teachers now must now have a door key on them at all times.
"I'm very comfortable with the safety procedures and protocols that we've put into place," said Cauley. Still, she acknowledge, they will need to be regularly re-examined.
One idea being considered is to install "emergency" buttons on every school and town phone – all that would be needed would be to press one button on an office phone and it would signal that there's an emergency.
"I spoke to Wendy," said Chief Coyle, referring to the town's IT manager. "We have the technology to do it and it’s just going to come down to money."
For Cauley, it's all about making such drills just part of the routine.
"You should think of a lockdown drill just like a fire drill," she said. "This process also has to become second nature."
She said she felt good about Wednesday's drill. "I do feel confident. The students followed directions very well. We have a plan in place."
That said, Cauley, who has children ages 7 and 9, acknowledged it's been a tough time. "It left everybody feeling very vulnerable," she said, but it also showed what educators are capable of.
"Seeing what happened in Newtown and seeing what those teachers and administrators did, helped people to see what we'd be willing to do."