By NANCY WEST, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – The Department of Safety said Thursday’s fake school shooter threats across the state show why training and exercises are important, but wouldn’t say exactly which schools and communities were impacted.
“The Department of Safety received notification of multiple active shooter threats at schools across the state just before 10 a.m. Thursday, December 8,” according to a Department of Safety news release. “The calls, which were all similar in nature, have been determined to be a hoax. Several communities across New Hampshire and the country reported receiving calls.”
When asked for the specific communities and schools affected in New Hampshire via email, Safety’s community outreach coordinator Vanessa Palange responded by email at 1:30 p.m. “At this time, we know it was multiple schools across the state but do not have a list.”
When pressed for details, at 4:18 p.m., Palange said, “Six schools have publicly stated that they received threats. They are Littleton, Dover, Portsmouth, Claremont, Franklin and Lebanon.”
When asked via email why she didn’t include Concord which was known to have a fake active shooter report Thursday at St. John’s Regional School and several Concord schools were placed in lock-down, Palange said: “You would need to contact St. John’s or the Concord Police Department for that inquiry.”
Palange didn’t respond when asked via email what the policy is for releasing the names of the schools and communities targeted.
InDepthNH.org’s requests for information to Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut’s office were referred to Palange.
Gov. Chris Sununu sent out a news release before noon stating the calls were a hoax, but his spokesman didn’t respond when asked why the state wouldn’t identify all of the communities and schools that were threatened.
The news release did say: “The Department of Safety is working alongside local, state and federal law enforcement partners, including the FBI, to identify the source of the calls. Any questions regarding the investigation should be directed to the FBI.”
In the news release, Robert Buxton, Director of the Department of Safety’s Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said: “Today we saw schools using their emergency operation plans to respond to the calls.
“These incidents continue to show us why it is important for schools to conduct trainings and exercises on those plans, throughout the school year, in partnership with their local first responders,” Buxton said.
When asked by WMUR at noon which communities were affected, Buxton said he didn’t have that list.
The news release said the School Readiness Program, which is part of HSEM, provides assistance with the development, implementation and review of school emergency operations plans; works with schools throughout the year to conduct physical security assessments; and training and exercises. Since 2014, the School Readiness Program has conducted more than 1,000 assessments.
“Today’s incident highlighted the effectiveness of communication and collaboration between my office, the Department of Safety and the New Hampshire Education Department, as well as local agencies,” Sununu said.
For more school safety resources, officials said to visit the New Hampshire School Safety Resource Center.