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Boardman puts positive spin on lockdown drill

February 19, 2020
Ashley Fox , The Town Crier

Moments before Boardman High School was temporarily locked down Thursday for a drill, Doug Sage sat in a conference room, recalling an event that shocked many Americans.

"I was in utter shock," Sage said as he recalled the Feb. 27, 2012, shootings at Chardon High School that left three dead.

Sage, a Boardman police dispatcher who is from Chardon, was working for an AT&T call center not too far from Chardon High School when he heard about six students being shot.

He then found out a relative was sitting "very close" to a girl who was wounded by the shooter, a teen gunman who later received three life sentences without parole.

Sage's relative was able to escape when the shooter's gun, pointed at them, either malfunctioned or ran out of ammunition.

Sage was on hand with multiple first responders at the third annual Legacy Lockdown at Boardman High.

Boardman police officers, the Boardman Fire Department, Mahoning County Sheriff's office, Lane LifeTrans and emergency room personnel from St. Elizabeth Boardman and Youngstown hospitals also were present. They walked the school's halls lined with students, who were cheering and clapping for them.

To make unique the lockdown drill, which is one of many mandated by the state, Principal Cynthia Fernback said students and faculty came together to figure out a way to honor the 17 victims of a shooting Feb. 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The gunman was a 19-year-old former student at the school.

Fernback said the student body at Boardman High seemed to be "very moved" by the lockdown event.

"High school students are a rough audience," she said, as they don't always show reaction to things.

During the drill portion of the lockdown, first responders checked on the building. Then, with students and staff where they were assigned to be, the first responders made their way to a room and watched a video honoring victims and first responders.

Then, students lined the hallways, with responders walking the halls as the students clapped and cheered them on.

As first responders made their way around the building, students silently waited for the personnel, only clapping or chattering once they saw the uniforms.

"To see all those people here" that can comfort and assist after an emergency situation is "reassuring" to the students, Fernback said.

When an emergency call comes in, Sage said there is a way the communications team handles it, trying to get information so help can be sent.

"You kind of just go through your processes and procedures," Sage said. "You kind of almost go on autopilot for a while."

Superintendent Tim Saxton said the looks on the faces of the first responders were moving. "Just seeing the look" on their faces, he said, some tearing up, shows how important the drill and the meaning behind it are to the first responders.

"A lot of people, when they think of first responders ... they may think of the true front line," Saxton said. Each responder has an important role, from dispatchers gathering information, to the first reacting at the scene, to the staff treating victims at hospitals.

The addition of communications and hospital staff this year was a "great" way to recognize all the key players in a possible crisis situation, Saxton added.



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