School Shooter Emergency Drill Preps Local School


Photo Credit: Marleigh Felsenstein

The injuries may be fake, but the school security drill tested Norwood’s emergency response system. Glen Rock’s own Marleigh Felsenstein took part in the event as a member of a local improv group. Here, a cast member is prepared for the security drill with realistic costume make-up.

by Marleigh Felsenstein, Managing Editor

Sunday, December 2, 2012. It was the last day of a casual weekend in the town of Norwood, New Jersey. The weather was mild and the people were happy. But gunshots were heard at the middle school and the Norwood police and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) had to rush to the scene of the crime — because they were being timed.

It was a school shooting simulation, and I volunteered as an actress (playing a victim) — I was costumed with a fake gunshot wound in my abdomen, and after I was shot I fell backwards and hit my head on the wall. My symptoms were nausea and vomiting, twitching, and an erratic pulse. In the simulation, my injuries were life-threatening and I feigned crying, coughing, and breathing heavily. It must have been a harrowing scene to witness, as I was in a pool of liquid latex blood on the floor.

My friends and fellow cast members of “Reflections,” a teen improvisational performance group run out of the Bergen County Department of Human Services (Division of Family Guidance) were also actors/victims. Eight of our seventeen cast members participated in this simulation, and their injuries included gunshots, broken arms, broken legs, and face and arm lacerations by the assailant’s knife.

John Nicolai, Chief Director of Advanced Firearms Training & Qualification Institute LLC, put this situation together to prepare the township, students, and staff for an unfortunate reality of our time — one that lingers in our memories of Columbine and Virginia Tech.

The motive of the “shooter” was a messy divorce. He had come into the school to get his child and run after shooting his wife. The first faux shots were fired in the parking lot. Then the shooter went into a kindergarten classroom, “stabbed” the teacher, and went through the hallways, shooting and stabbing anyone he came across, including a police officer. The police were called and they removed th

e officer from the floor of the hallway, and later a helicopter landed and treated a member of Reflections for a bone protruding out of his leg. EMS personnel came around and treated everyone that was screaming and crying and dying on the floors of the school hallway. I was wrapped up in gauze, put into a neck brace, and whisked away into the gym, where I was then let off and set up for a debriefing.

At the end of the drill, Chief Director Nicolai was very thankful to all of the actors that participated. He said that it was a very good learning experience for the Norwood police and EMS and that, in a real situation, they would now know what to do.

Glen Rock student, Marleigh Felsenstein, is pictured with a costume injury to her head.
Students were depicted with various injuries, providing emergency response teams with necessary training to respond in crisis situations.