Schools tighten up plans for security, safety
New protocol for emergencies responds to local and national incidents
The Atwater Road murder, the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy, the Clackamas Town Center shooting, local cougar sightings all of it spelled out to Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Bill Korach that it was time for a districtwide safety and security plan upgrade.
Korach assigned his administrators to work with Lake Oswego Police Department officials last spring, and the team has revamped the plan, putting it into action this fall. The plan is different in that it creates consistent protocols for specific situations throughout the school district.
Whats different for the district is we have taken a much more comprehensive look, have had Lake Oswego Police Department very closely involved and have committed to much greater similarity in every schools responses to active threat situations, Korach said.
He said recent events inspired the revised plan. At Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012 in Newtown, Conn., a gunman shot and killed 26 people, including 20 children. Only days before, a man fired shots into the crowd at Clackamas Town Center, slaying two people. Lake Oswego High School, Lake Oswego Junior High and Forest Hills Elementary School were locked down as a precaution during the search for a suspect in a murder at a house on Atwater Road in September 2012 in Lake Oswego. There have been sightings of cougars throughout Lake Oswego, including reports of one near Westridge Elementary School that inspired security measures last May.
Through June, schools will conduct a different type of drill each month and, after each drill, administrators will assess how the new protocol works. Fire drills already were done each month but are a little different now.
The revised plan groups emergencies into four categories, including lock in, used during a community threat such as a nearby prowling cougar or extreme weather, and lock down, used for a campus threat such as an armed intruder. For both, windows, blinds and doors are closed, but lock down is more intense. Whereas lock in limits movement, lock down calls for students to stay away from windows, hide and stay put in a locked room until an official says otherwise.
During lock in and lock down, no one will be let in or out, Director of Special Education/Special Services Patrick Tomblin said during a recent, districtwide parent advisory committee meeting.
If you are in the building at the time, we will not let you out not for a doctors appointment, a hair appointment, he said. No.
Lock down has the option of evacuation to an off-campus location.
Serious injury/illness is for when a person is unresponsive or bleeding severely. It starts with shouting for or sending for help and then calling 911.
Lake Oswego Police Administrative Sgt. Tom Hamann said once 911 has been called during an emergency, do not tie-up dispatchers lines if you are seeking information.
Evacuation, used for bomb threats and fires, requires gathering students and an emergency pack and following an evacuation route. Evacuation, also called a fire drill, calls for an end to the hands-in-pockets sluggish progression to an exit. No hands can rest in pockets, and egress must be swift. No one, not even children with sensory issues who currently get advance notice, will receive a warning for a fire drill, which should help build up muscle memory so responses in an emergency will be automatic, Tomblin said.
Parents should not show up at a school amid one of these emergencies because it could be dangerous, Director of Secondary Education Donna Atherton said. Its best to not call the school district because the staff will be busy. The district will send out an update to people through its listserv, an emergency calling system and Twitter.
Protocol for each emergency is laid out on a separate sheet of paper with a checkmark-ready box next to every step. Atherton called that idea, which Tomblin came up with, a stroke of genius. She said previous plans had multipage instructions that would be more challenging to execute in an emergency.
Atherton and Tomblin reviewed school safety plans and performed safety walk-throughs of each school by themselves and again with police and a security consultant this summer. The consultant, police and district administrators then collaborated on a safety plan.
The plan-making effort took several months and support from many people, but it was important, Atherton said.
This is our community; these are our schools; these are our children, she said during a parent advisory committee meeting last month. We all have a responsibility to be vigilant and to keep our children safe.
The district did not wish to provide too many details on its plan because of concerns about student safety, but there are specific assignments before and during incidents for administrators.
Atherton asked the community and all employees in the district to provide input on monthly drills and the new plan. As feedback comes in, administrators will reassess the plan and determine whether to make adjustments.
The fortunate thing is, statistically, our schools are very safe, and the major incidents that we are talking about are statistically rare, Hamann said.