Local police and schools officials began working more closely on school safety after a stabbing on Sept. 14, 2011 at Farmington High School that injured a student. The student charged in connection with the stabbing, Samuel Hinds, is awaiting trial.
The Farmington Police Department now holds monthly drills to simulate active-shooter scenarios and other crimes at schools throughout Farmington Municipal Schools.
"We've made our schools a whole lot safer than they were a few years ago," said Farmington police Sgt. Donnie Kee.
Staff and even young students have received training for what to do in a shooting. "Even the kids have gotten some training," Kee said.
Studies of school shootings have found that inaction in such a crisis doesn't work.
"You need to do something," Kee said. "If you can hide, hide well. If you can run away, run far, and don't congregate in open areas — we'll find you. If you have to fight, fight back in teams."
The department has also clarified its policies to reflect that officers shouldn't wait for backup during a shooting.
"If there is a true active shooter incident occurring, the first responding officer will go in alone if they have to and confront the threat," Kee said.
Police and schools officials also have placed "go bags" at schools that include photos and maps of the school, student and staff rosters and phone trees to help in an emergency.
Farmington Fire Department personnel and San Juan Regional Medical Center medics also participate in the drills, he said. Not all the drills involve shooting scenarios. Some simulate a child's abduction, or a domestic violence incident happening at school.
"We've incorporated not only active shooter drills, but also basically overall safety planning for the schools," Kee said. "It's taken off. It's a great program."
Six school resource officers rotate among Farmington schools. They work with administrators, staff and students to prepare for an emergency, Kee said. Farmington schools also received a grant to place hand-held radios in classrooms in case intercom systems fail.
Aztec school officials don't simulate live shooter scenarios, but they do discuss the scenarios with staff and law enforcement.
"Safety is something that's in front of us every day," said Aztec Superintendent Kirk Carpenter. "We have plans in place and practice those plans so they stay in place."
Incidents like the Connecticut massacre particularly affect educators, Carpenter said.
"We're all a big family in education," he said. "Kids are what we surround ourselves with. It's hard to fathom anything like that."