Students quickly followed their teachers outside the building responding to a drill. School districts across eastern Iowa have practiced what they would do in a dangerous intruder situation, but only with faculty and staff. Cedar Falls schools took it a step further and involved the students.

“This is a drill. I repeat this is a drill,” students at Cedar Heights Elementary head over the school’s intercom system. “We have a dangerous intruder in the gym. We have a dangerous intruder in the gym.”

Jon Wiebers said that, in his 17 years as a principal — seven of those at Cedar Heights Elementary — a dangerous intruder drill was something he never thought they would ever have to go through. “My original thought was, ‘We shouldn’t be doing this because of what it does to kids,'” he said. “Now, making sure kids are prepared is the best step for that.” When an intruder comes into the school, the drill suggests students run, hide or fight.

After a year’s worth of planning, for the first time the Cedar Falls School District decided to have students practice the run part of that drill. “A good thing to remember is, it’s very similar to a tornado and fire drill while practicing those,” said Wiebers. “The likelihood of those happening to us are slim — as we hope, this is very slim and maybe nonexistent — (but) having our kids know what to do is really important.”

Before the drill, teachers spoke with their students about what to do in these types of situations. Their next step, they plan to go through the “hide” part of the intruder drill. Wiebers says they will not go though the “fight” part only because of the age of the students. Cedar Falls Police were also involved with the planning process, and they were at the school to see how the students would do.

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