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.
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
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
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.
The protocol for a
lockout is straightforward:
* It will be
announced over the school’s public address system, twice: “Lockout. Secure
* 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.
business will be conducted as usual.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.”
“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
“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.”
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.
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
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