Posted 21 May 2012

An Auckland school was locked down in a full-scale police emergency - but thankfully it was only a training exercise.  Armed police descended on Somerville Intermediate in Howick in an exercise designed to test their response to the threat of armed gunmen at schools.  The school was taken over by three gunmen shortly after 9am and locked down.

Howick Police were quickly on the scene and followed shortly after by members of the Auckland Armed Offenders Squad and the St John's Emergency Response Team.  A number of students were taken "hostage" during the carefully scripted exercise, which concluded about an hour later with the arrest of the three mock offenders.  School principal David Ellery said the exercised had been arranged ''some time ago'' and the school was well prepared having recently implemented an integrated Emergency Management Plan.

''As a result we felt very comfortable in allowing the police the opportunity to carry out this exercise within our school,'' he said.

Somerville school's emergency plan was developed by Harrison Tew Consultants.

''We clearly hope that this situation never occurs, but by ensuring the correct planning and procedures are in place, and backed up by detailed training, ensures New Zealand schools have the confidence in their own ability to deal with and manage a range of emergencies,'' Harrison Tew Director Wade Harrison said.

Mr Ellery added: ''The response by the Police and St John's was very professional and impressive, they managed the situation put in front of them admirably and we were very fortunate to have been allowed to contribute.''

He said his students had been ''very excited'' in the lead-up to the exercise, but he hoped the ''active gunman'' situation never played out for real in a New Zealand school. But in any event, Mr Ellery said, it was ''comforting to know that we have the support and procedures in place to deal with even the worst case''.

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