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NISD, first responders partner for unique opportunity

NISD, first responders partner for unique opportunity
Image of Haslet Fire Department truck at training at Pike Middle School

When students walked out of Pike Middle School on May 24 to end the school year, work immediately began on the transition to a new building that is set to open in August. All furniture and boxes were moved within days, but demolition of the old building had to wait one more week for a special reason.

On Saturday, June 1, and Sunday, June 2, Northwest ISD partnered with several local first responding agencies, allowing them to utilize the facility for training exercises. The training sessions included live instruction for breaching, active shooter training, search and rescue operations and more.

Agencies from all 14 jurisdictions that serve Northwest ISD were invited to participate, plus agencies from outside of NISD such as Lake Worth Fire Department and Saginaw Fire Department attended.

The experience gave nearly 200 first responders the opportunity to train in a real-world setting that they are rarely afforded, and was initiated by NISD’s Safety and Security Department. Specifically, Director of Safety and Security Alan Beck and Emergency Manager Mark Bethany, organized the weekend and contacted various agencies who jumped on the opportunity. 

“We have trained in a small hospital, small office buildings and actually one school in the past,” explained Sergeant Chris Bookwalter, a 19-year veteran with the Fort Worth Police Department. “But, never has the school or business contacted us to initiate the training."

"There is no way for me to put into words how valuable it is, especially for us as a SWAT team. NISD planning this on behalf of first responders is a very rare occurrence.”


“I have been in the fire service for 21 years, and this was my first opportunity to participate in such a training,” said Division Chief Steven Harvey from the Haslet Fire Department.  “Many fire departments use props and other resources to try and mimic door breaching or vertical ventilation, but nothing replaces the real thing.”

In the two days, 10 stations from six different local fire departments participated in the joint training with approximately 115-line personnel and 10 chief-level officers in attendance.

“It’s great to get crews together from around the area,” Chief Harvey said. “ It gives us the opportunity to work together in a low-stress environment and bring teams together to learn each other's abilities.”

The opportunity to encounter real-world challenges, such as roofs that are decades old, classroom doors with specialized locks and much more, can be invaluable knowledge to first responders in an emergency situation. 

Fire fighters train inside Pike Middle School

“For us, much like the fire department, the structure dictates our main goal,” said Sergeant Bookwalter. “With a school of this size, the first thing I think is ‘what can I work on in a real-world environment that my newest officers need to experience first hand.’ We have a great training facility, but we don’t have a school with real construction specifications. 

“I want my newest officers to get a look at various scenarios. I want them to see things in action that they have only ever seen in a textbook, but now they see it in the real world and they have that experience.”

The training is mutually beneficial for all agencies involved, as well as Northwest ISD.

“I call it a win-win for everybody,” Bethany said. “We now know that these agencies have more confidence in responding quicker and gaining faster access to our facilities if they ever needed to. Plus, the agencies went through this together and they’ve built stronger relationships amongst themselves.”

“For us it's a benefit because those agencies all continue to build confidence in our (safety and security) department,” Beck added. “The opportunity to collaborate with them and continue to build a great working relationship will only help us as we move forward and work together to keep our students and staff safe.”