Car Backfires Mistaken as Gunshots, Cause School Lockdowns

Police also respond to parents frustrated they were not notified of the situation.

Three Hopatcong schools were locked down Tuesday afternoon when car backfires that rattled students were mistaken as gunshots behind Tulsa Trail School, police said.

DPW workers, a teacher and students confirmed hearing what they believed to be gunshots in the woods behind Tulsa Trail School at about 2 p.m. Tuesday, Lt. Thomas Kmetz said.

Tulsa Trail, Durban Avenue and Hopatcong Middle School were all placed on lockdown, Kmetz said.

However, it was determined a vehicle had backfired several times in the area and the noise was so loud students ducked down, Kmetz said.

The schools were cleared when it was confirmed there was no danger, Kmetz said.

While parents were frustrated information was not released during the lockdown, Kmetz said police need to focus on securing the schools and investigating the incident during that time.

In a statement directed at parents, Kmetz suggested those concerned about the situation should speak with their children about lockdown procedures.

"You will be amazed at what we do and what your children do. For security reasons, I will not go any further," Kmetz said. "Just know we and your children train for what may come at us. Yes, it is hard to give up control, and yes, I know you want to run to your child and help. However, you will only delay our progress, get you or someone else hurt, and waste your time trying to get to your child."
Joanne madalena February 11, 2014 at 05:26 PM
I understand in the moment they can't get the info out but after children are home safe they can give more info then there was a lock down and all is clear. This is the second real lockdown in a couple months. My children play they are having a lock down now and dream about it. They have been scared and parents need more info to deal with it at home. Both my daughters have seem real fear on their teacher's faces.
Michele Guttenberger February 11, 2014 at 10:05 PM
Joanne I have to agree it's how adults respond to a situation that can cause lingering fear in a child. When I was young the school had bomb air raid drills. We did not have fear over them because they became routine and the teacher never had a look of panic on her face. We even clowned around a bit during these drills. How adults respond to a situation has tremendous impact on a child. I remember a recent news story of teacher who took all of her very young students into a safe room during a tornado. The teacher had the children sing songs to comfort and distract them from the outside situation. As it turned out the tornado destroyed everything around them but, the teacher managed to keep them from panicking. We need more "keep calm and carry on" composure from adults so they don't pass panic and fear in children who are emotionally impacted afterwards even when the threat was a false one. Children are at a different emotional level than adults and process fear differently. The fear part still lingers afterwards because they have not developed advance reasoning of the situation to dismiss the fear as unwarranted. That's why it important to make lock downs appear as a routine safety drill like my old bomb air raid drills, where children follow instructions but are not disturbed by the drill afterwards.
Liz Filipovsky February 12, 2014 at 06:12 AM
I only wish there was a routine for the crossing guards to handle The parents waiting for their children at the bus stops. I feel the crossing guards should be informed so that they can give the sense of peace to the parents as they wait. Information given by the proper authorities is a little easier to deal with then hearing rumors and speculations which creates more fear for the parents.


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