AUGUSTA — In front of an audience of teachers and school administrators from across the state, Augusta Community Resource Officer Brad Chase spoke about a pledge he made as a young man when he joined the Air Force.

They might soon have to make a similar commitment, Chase said. 

“I signed a pledge at 19 that said I would die for my country,” he said in early July to the school staff members. “Now, as teachers, we have to keep a consideration and a certain level of acceptance that you might die — in these situations, you have the most important job in the world.” 

Chase was referring to the level of safety and the procedures teachers must be aware of as recent events across the country — like the recent school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that left 19 children and two teachers dead — have begun to more regularly threaten the lives and safety of students, teachers and other school staff. 

Along with his colleagues at the Augusta Police Department, Chase led a daylong active shooter training at the beginning of July that was research-based and interactive with a full-on simulation facilitated by trained professionals. Around 20 educators from as far away as Millinocket attended. The department hosted another training Aug. 8 at the Augusta Civic Center that drew around 50 participants, most of whom were employees of the city-owned venue, though it was open to the public.

Chase said the department has tried to train different departments around the city, not just teachers.


Staying safe amid threats like this has been at the forefront of teachers’ minds, said Jonathan Shapiro, director of the Maine School Safety Center, a branch of the state’s department of education tasked with keeping schools safe by developing best practices and providing training, among other things. Though Shapiro has not seen an uptick in teachers vocalizing nervousness after recent school incidents, he said attendance at the agency’s School Safety Summit doubled to about 300 this year. He did not know whether that was because of the advertising of the event or because of recent shootings prompting more people to attend. Still, interest has grown.

But the state-run school safety center doesn’t currently offer training for active shooter situations. Instead, local authorities like the Augusta Police Department have been stepping forward to meet the need.

Augusta Police Department community resource officer Brad Chase explains why police might draw their weapons during an active shooter training session for employees of the Augusta Civic Center in early August. Chase leads the agency’s training for public employees on how to react and survive a workplace shooting. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Augusta police have put on active shooter training for schools for as long as Chase has been with the department, which is around 11 years. The trainings slowed down during the pandemic, but have just started to gain momentum again following the Uvalde shooting, which reignited a national debate on gun and school policies while shining a light on missteps by the local police there in responding to that deadly attack.

“We thought, ‘We have to do it.’ It is unacceptable on the police department’s part,” Chase said about the Uvalde police’s response to the shooting. “It was failure after failure.”

The first training in July was held at Cony Middle and High School and attracted teachers and staff members from as close as the central Maine Hallowell-area, to Millinocket in northern Maine, Topsham and Kennebec Valley Community College in Fairfield, who all inquired about the training on their own due to there not being a robust program taught near them. 

For safety reasons, the Kennebec Journal is not publishing specific details about the training and the methods that the Augusta Police Department uses. But generally, the trainers encouraged teachers to “run, hide and fight,” and for teachers to take preventive measures before the first responders can get to the scene such as locking doors, barricading doors and hiding. The “run, hide and fight” philosophy is what the Department of Homeland Security encourages. 


Teachers at the simulation in July were stunned when it began and reported being surprised at the reality of the situation and how quickly it can unfold before first responders arrive.

Augusta Civic Center employees raise their hands after barricading behind a table as Augusta police officers search a room during active shooter training in Augusta earlier this month. The daylong training at the venue was design to instruct workers how to react in the event of a workplace shooting. Augusta police offer the training to city and school employees from across Maine. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Chase reported that in the training the day before, one teacher left the room in tears because of how real it felt to her.

Chase repeatedly told the audience that it’s important to “hold local police and fire departments accountable to know how to use their tools,” which is a message the Maine School Safety Center agrees with.

Though the Maine School Safety Center does not currently have training for active shooter situations, it has a robust threat assessment program and encourages schools to work with their local first responders to create plans. The center was established in 2020.

“It all depends on the resources the school has and what they have for public safety, it’s not really a one-size fits well,” said Shapiro. “If in Portland, where they have a full-time and robust police department with all kinds of equipment, the response might be a certain way, but in a rural school, there might be a different jurisdiction and they might have different resources and time.” 

The School Safety Summit is a 40-hour training with 27 topics that range from mental health and trauma awareness to emergency operations planning. The program taught teachers what to do in an emergency situation, but did not have a simulated response program like the Augusta Police Department did.


At the July training put on by Chase, it was clear the educators attended based on experiences they had in the classroom or fears they had about the future. 

Augusta Civic Center employees had a range of reactions at the conclusion of active shooter training that involved simulated gunfire at the Augusta venue earlier this month. Augusta police offer the training to city and school employees from across Maine to teach workers how to react during a workplace shooting. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal

Chase asked the audience of nearly 20 educators if they had ever heard a student threaten the school and half of their hands went up. When he asked if a teacher thought of an “escape plan” while in the classroom, half the hands went up, again. 

One of the educators at the training was Cony High School’s principal, Kim Silsby, who at the July 13 board of education meeting told the board and administrators how the training was informative and beneficial to her.

“It was really helpful, a lot of the time (Chase) talked about how school districts have to set up for ‘buying time’ before professionals are there to help, advocating that we will come and be there and take an active role in taking care of you,” Silsby said to the board.

In response, student representative Kristin Morrill said students would benefit going through a similar training as the teachers so they have an idea of what to do if they were presented with the situation.

Superintendent Jim Anastasio said each building administrator has reviewed a safety plan and has building-specific preventative measures in place already. The Augusta district includes four elementary schools, one middle and high school, the Capital Area Technical Education Center and the Augusta Adult Education Program.

A month later, at the Aug. 10 board of education meeting, Anastasio said the focus for the next couple of months in the district is on “safety” and that teachers will receive further training at the end of September by the Augusta police.

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