Sheridan College Lockdown Training Exercise
On Monday, November 25, Sheridan College worked in partnership with the Halton Regional Police Service to conduct a lockdown training exercise at its Trafalgar Campus in Oakville.
For Sheridan College, the purpose of the exercise was to have students and employees practice emergency lockdown procedures. It was also an opportunity to allow carefully selected students to volunteer for an experiential learning opportunity that was directly tied to their chosen fields of study. Equally important, it was an opportunity for Halton Police officers to become even more familiar with Sheridan’s grounds and buildings, to enhance student, staff and officer safety.
“As part of our Halton Police School Board Protocol, the Service conducts lockdown training exercises twice a year at all Halton schools in order to ensure that our officers, students and faculty are properly prepared in the event of a real incident,” said Sgt. Kim Hill. “In any training exercise we conduct, the safety of our officers, students and staff is paramount, and our first priority.”
Approximately 30 students from Sheridan’s Bachelor of Music Theatre Performance program volunteered to act as victims. Another 15 students from Sheridan’s Advanced Special Effects Make up, Prosthetics and Props program volunteered to apply wounds to the actors and to help create a life-like scene. Students from the Police Fundamentals program walked the perimeter of the building and reminded the public about the drill that would unfold.
For the journalism students who participated, it was meant to be an opportunity to prepare stories with limited access to the video for storytelling purposes for their online and weekly newspaper, The Sheridan Sun and Sun online.
Questions have since been raised about the decision to remove some of the video content prepared by the students for the Web. From the College’s perspective, the issue was how the stories were framed using extensive video and pictures in a context that arguably did not add to the stories, but opened questions around taste, relevance, news judgement and sensitivity. In any editorial operation there are standards and practices that are applied that serve both the public interest while being fair and balanced and taking into account the weight of the story and relevance to the audience.
The weekly newspaper, the Sheridan Sun, published as usual on Thursday with full coverage (the front and second page) of the lockdown training exercise, framed with disclaimers and photo cut-lines so readers understood the context for what they were seeing and reading.
Clearly, Sheridan could have done a better job of more explicitly explaining the rules of engagement (what was allowed or what was off limits) to the journalism students who were invited to participate.
The training exercise was limited to one building at Sheridan’s Oakville Campus. The scenario was carefully orchestrated to unfold only after the lockdown was formally initiated. Volunteer observers were in every classroom to make sure that the Sheridan community adhered to lockdown protocol. Throughout the exercise, a loud speaker announcement played continually reminding everyone that this was only a training exercise.
This exercise involved over six weeks of planning. It was preceded by a comprehensive communications campaign which included direct emails to students and employees, notices on internal TV monitors, two articles in an internal newsletter, posters around campus, and notification on the login page to the College’s intranet. Local media, local businesses and churches, and transit providers were also informed in advance that a drill was being conducted.
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