SALEM - Residents may notice a lot of police activity at Salem High School from noon to 8 p.m. Thursday, but don't need to be alarmed - it's just a training exercise.
Police Chief J.T. Panezott announced his department will conduct active shooter training at the school in two sessions from noon to 4 p.m. and then from 4 to 8 p.m., with Sgt. Mike Hughes of the Boardman Police Department overseeing the training.
Panezott said Hughes has had a lot of experience in this type of training, where they'll be told how to respond to an active shooter scene, what to do once they get there, and how to clear rooms, hallways and stairs.
They'll be able to use the training in other ways, too, such as when they have to respond to alarm drops or open door reports and have to check the buildings.
"We'll have an area blocked off that we're using," he said.
Salem Schools Superintendent Tom Bratten said the district is making sure coaches, students and their parents know what's going on since the building is in use even though the school year hasn't started. The band and fall sports teams and cheerleaders are practicing.
Bratten said it's a great opportunity for the training to happen at the high school in case something would ever happen there.
"What better place to have it than our own building?" he said.
The police department conducted some training with teachers last spring to prepare them on what to do in case of an intruder or emergency situation.
Panezott said they won't be using real weapons during the training, but simulated guns that look
real. Nothing will be fired.
"We just want people to be aware there's nothing going on. It's just us training," he said.
He's been focusing on increasing training for officers, requiring them to take free online courses offered by the Ohio Attorney General's Office. They just completed a street smart series course on heroin and previously completed courses on consent searches and terrorism awareness.
The active shooter training will be a four-hour hands-on course. He said they'll be doing some additional training at a later date.