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Florida tragedy prompts Buffalo Schools to re-evaluate active shooter readiness

National Public Radio

Top Buffalo Public schools officials will be huddling Thursday morning to talk about the mass shooting in Florida and how it might affect active shooter plans in city schools.

Since the 1999 mass shootings in Columbine, CO, schools have been developing and updating emergency plans like those for active shooters and watching them change as the events of the next school shooter surfaced.

"Unfortunately, with tragedy, you have to turn it around," said Buffalo Chief Operating Officer Kevin Eberle. "We have lost lives, we have had a lot of tragedy, but we have to take lessons and learn from those lessons and bring that to our world and say, 'What can we do better?' and let's use that as a learning element."

Eberle will be meeting with the executive director of school safety and security, Fred Wagstaff, Thursday to assess city schools' readiness.

Eberle said he looks at the situation a little differently because he was once a cop, before going into education. He said city schools, cops and school security work closely with the alphabet soup of government agencies working here. Eberle said that is important.

"Great collaboration with the Mayor's Office, Buffalo Police Department, Buffalo Fire, FBI," Eberle said. There is a seminar coming up at UB in the next two months. Each year, they go into training for all the different elements across the country that we re-analyze and bring back, especially in the school setting. What are elements we can put together to actually see how we can better ourselves each day."

Credit National Public Radio
National Public Radio
A Florida student reacts as she talks to a television reporter.

Eberle said schools might have to look again at fire drills because the shooter in Florida set off a fire alarm to get the kids to storm out of school to be shot and that is not the first time false alarms have been used to draw students toward waiting weapons.

"We have to look at all those situations and when it comes to that, pulling the fire drill is a perfect example," he said. "That's textbook, for trying to get targets coming out. We have to really look at that and say, 'Okay, how do we address that and be certain that our school is ready for those type situations,' really go by the rules of engagement and actually rules of our drills that we practice."

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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