Five dogs from the Johnstown Police Department K-9 Corps – Chase, Athos, Array, Rocky and Cooper – sprinted energetically throughout the halls of Greater Johnstown High School on Thursday morning.
Within about 10 minutes, the canines had sniffed all 1,000 lockers inside the building.
They were searching for drugs. None were found.
Their presence was part of a safety drill conducted by the police department and school district. Along with the random drug sweep, the school ran a lockdown in which students, teachers, faculty and other workers were confined to their rooms in order to simulate the precautionary steps they should take in case a potentially dangerous situation arises.
“We can do two things at once,” said school Resource Officer Chad Miller, a member of the Johnstown Police Department. “We put them on lockdown because the dogs are going through. We don’t want any kids in the hallways. We don’t want the dogs to be able to bite on a kid or a faculty member or anything like that.”
The high school usually conducts two drills per year.
Such simulations help K-9 Corps members – Officer Brad Christ, Sgt. Michael Plunkard, Officer B.J. Newman and Officer Mike Kanuch – familiarize themselves with the building in case they are needed in an emergency.
“It’s a benefit for the school district because it gives the officers a chance to come into the school to see the layout of the school,” said Kanuch, who oversees the unit.
Assistant Principal Michael Dadey, the district’s safety coordinator, added, “This drill is conducted based on the fact that we need to keep our school safe, keep the kids safe and secure. That’s our first priority here.”
The searches are not only a cooperative effort between the district and police department, but the Cambria County District Attorney’s Office also contributes funding to the Johns-town Police Department in order for it to provide local schools with K-9 services.
“The superintendent, the administration, the school board, the chief of police – they’re all forward thinkers,” said Miller. “They’re all looking at the safety of our kids and our community.”
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