An insight into how we work to keep our schools safe, so #HollistonInnovates can happen

                 Holliston Police Chief Matthew Stone, Holliston Fire Chief and Director of Emergency Management Michael Cassidy and Superintendent of Schools Bradford Jackson announced today that the senior leadership teams from the Holliston Police Department, Holliston Fire Department and the Holliston Public Schools have just completed an intensive, 3-hour joint emergency preparedness exercise, designed to strengthen the quality and effectiveness of a joint response to a school-based incident.  Participants in the exercise included command staff from the Holliston Police and Fire Departments, Holliston’s two School Resource Officers, the Dispatch Supervisor, the School Department’s Central Office administrative team, and the Principal, Assistant Principal and Student Services Administrators from each of Holliston’s four schools. 

                During the 3-hour exercise facilitated by Fire Chief Cassidy, participants responded to a number of mock scenarios, including searching for a missing student, responding to a suspicious package and dealing with a town-wide weather emergency.  “This type of exercise is typically called a ‘table top exercise’ where the facilitator offers an initial set of facts and circumstances and asks key personnel to explain how they would respond,” Cassidy explained.  “The facilitator then adds new facts or twists to the scenario, designed to further test participants.  After the scenario is completed, the entire group discusses the response and how it might be strengthened or improved.  Overall, I thought the entire exercise was a resounding success.”

                Police Chief Stone agreed.  “This was an intense session,” Stone said.  “Mike [Cassidy] came up with some believable scenarios that tested all three departments’ individual response capability.  As each scenario progressed and became more complex, our joint-response capacity was then put under the microscope.  While Police and Fire do this for a living, I was very impressed with the school administrator’s ability to maintain focus during the most intense parts of the exercise; make thoughtful decisions in real time; and communicate effectively under pressure.”

                 Superintendent of Schools Brad Jackson emphasized the importance of relationships and communication as keys to keeping our schools safe.  “The partnership among the Holliston Police Department, Holliston Fire Department and the Holliston Public Schools is the essential ingredient in our joint efforts to keep our schools safe.  Putting the senior leadership teams from all three departments together in one room for an exercise of this nature makes that partnership stronger and builds key relationships.  As these relationships grow, our ability to communicate strengthens, which improves our response to an emergency situation and, more importantly, improves our ability to prevent school-based emergencies from happening in the first place.”

                According to Police Chief Stone, follow-on training and additional exercises are being planned.  “Based on the success of this first joint exercise, we intend to make this experience a regular part of our annual school emergency preparedness work,” he said.  Fire Chief Cassidy agreed.  “I’m already putting some additional scenarios together .”


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