Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Porter County Sheriff Reynolds unveils 'One County One Protocol' school safety plan

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By KEVIN NEVERS

It’s hard to imagine a more comprehensively chaotic scene than an active school shooting.

First the gunshots, then the screams, the rippling panic, the paralysis. In those first few critical moments, the exact nature of the threat is likely known only by a handful, and it’s that lack of information--exacerbated by shock and disbelief--which can turn a crisis into a catastrophe. Some kids will go to ground, others will head for the nearest exit, but more than a few, unable to think clearly and without explicit instructions from someone in authority, may well bolt into the line of fire.

What’s needed, Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds believes, is an action plan already in place, a set of well-defined and universally understood procedures, a protocol, which can be taught to students, faculty, and staff.

That’s the idea behind Reynolds’ “One County One Protocol” initiative: to put everyone--those inside the school and the law enforcement personnel outside--on the same page.

To that end the Porter County Sheriff’s Office released in December an educational video on YouTube--“One County One Protocol,” produced by JBH Productions of Valparaiso--for the purpose of introducing the vocabulary and the countermeasures of a unified response. Filmed on location at several Porter County schools, with the assistance of members from most of the county’s police departments, the video dramatizes an active school shooting and the commonsense actions which students and faculty should take in a worst-case scenario.

It is, in truth, a chilling video. It could hardly not be. The point, though, is to walk students, faculty, and staff through the proper responses to a specified threat: the responses, that is, which law enforcement staging outside the building will be expecting. As the video’s narrator puts it, “A shared vocabulary and expectations make a real emergency less chaotic and help to ensure unity among the different law enforcement agencies and first-responders.”

There are two classes of threats, each calling for a different protocol:

* An external threat--outside the building--in which case a lockout is activated.

* An internal threat--inside the building--in which case a lockdown is activated.

Lockout

The protocol for a lockout is straightforward:

* It will be announced over the school’s public address system, twice: “Lockout. Secure the perimeter.”

* All students outside the building will return inside and all exterior doors locked.

* Teachers will increase their situational awareness.

* Teachers will also take attendance and account for all students.

* Otherwise, business will be conducted as usual.

Lockouts are typically initiated by law enforcement--not by a school or a school district--in the case of a “violent person or incident in the community outside the school.” The school itself, however, will designate the teachers and staff responsible for securing a building’s exterior doors, which are not to be opened for anyone but first-responders, not even for parents. “It could be because of a parent that a lockout was called,” the narrator notes.

Lockdown

A lockdown, in contrast, is activated in the event of an internal threat, one already inside the building.

* Ideally, a lockdown will be announced over the P.A. system, twice: “Lockdown. Locks, lights, out of sight.” The procedure will be the same, however, without an announcement, should the front office be unable to make one, and it will be the responsibility of students, teachers, and staff--alerted by gunshots or other signs of a crisis--to take the initiative.

* Students and teachers will immediately evacuate hallways and common areas and head for classrooms. Those classrooms will then be locked from the inside and lights, computers, and cell phones turned off. Everyone in the room will find places of concealment, out of the line of sight from the door, and maintain silence, while the teacher will take attendance.

* Exterior doors should not be locked, as there’s nothing to be gained by doing so, once the threat is inside, and the first-responders themselves would be hindered in making a rapid entry.

* Once inside a classroom, no one should leave until released by first-responders. Patience is vital, as “the event could take hours.”

* In a worst-case scenario, students and teachers may be required to confront the threat directly. “The decision to defend yourself is yours to make,” the narrator states. “If the time comes when you feel there’s no other option but to defend yourself and those with you, you must step up and commit without hesitation. Use everything and anything as a potential weapon. A fire extinguisher, a book end, a chair leg, or the swarm attack.”

SchoolGuard

“One County One Protocol” makes one other recommendation to school districts: to make use of the SchoolGuard system. Once in place, SchoolGuard works essentially as a panic button: a downloadable smartphone app which, when activated at the first sign of trouble by a teacher or staffer, simultaneously speed-dials 911; alerts every other staffer in the school with a smartphone; and alerts all neighboring schools.

SchoolGuard’s particular functionality is augmented, moreover, by its link to the Hero911 app, available only to sworn law enforcement officers. When SchoolGuard is activated, officers with the Hero911 app on their smartphones will be alerted as well, no matter where in Porter County they reside, no matter what department they serve with, making them, in essence, volunteer members of an on-call rapid-response team.

The whole point of SchoolGuard, as Sheriff Reynolds has told the Chesterton Tribune, is to reduce as much as possible a shooter’s unimpeded time in a school, by accelerating law enforcement’s response time. Because the faster boots are on the ground, the sooner officers can encroach on a shooter’s movements, options, and attention.

But for SchoolGuard to work as it’s intended, teachers and staff must download the app, Sgt. Jamie Erow, the PCSP’s public information officer, emphasized. “It’s crucial that the teachers get the app for it to work as it should,” she said. “Having the app, using it and this protocol, are paramount to reducing the tragedy and potential lives lost.”

Duneland Schools

“One County One Protocol” will only be shown to middle- and high-schoolers, Erow noted, and last week Duneland Schools Superintendent Dave Pruis confirmed that the link to the YouTube video has been forwarded to the administrations at CMS and CHS.

“We want our administrators and school resource officers to review it first,” Pruis said. “How will we get the word out? We’ll be looking at that.”

Steve Rohe, director of safety and security for Duneland Schools, did tell the Tribune that the school corporation has long been proactive on the issue of school safety. “We’ve had a safety and security department for years,” he said, adding that CMS and CHS both have a dedicated school resource officer in their buildings.

Duneland Schools have also been involved with the Indiana Department of Education’s School Safety Specialist Academy, almost from the program’s beginning in the 1990s, Rohe said. The School Safety Specialist Academy provides school corporations with “ongoing, certified training and information on national and state best practices, as well as exemplary resources for school safety, security, intervention/prevention, and emergency preparedness planning,” according its website.

Early in the 2016-17 academic year, officials with School Safety Specialist Academy conducted an inspection of Bailly Elementary and certified both its safety program and the Duneland School Corporation’s, Rohe said. “They were very impressed.”

 

 

Posted 1/19/2017

 
 
 
 

 

 

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