EMERGENCY PROCEDURES—SHELTER IN PLACE
A situation unfolded last week at the ROCORI secondary site (the high school and middle school). The situation encouraged us to apply a “shelter in place” condition (previously, we have used the phrase “soft lockdown” for this kind of situation). The fact that we used the condition provides a great opportunity to share information about some of our emergency procedures—in particular, the shelter in place. I would like to use the column to review information about the procedure.
In previous years, we have used the emergency terms, “lockdown” and “soft lockdown” as two different types of conditions. A lockdown or code red situation, as we have defined them in the past, has been used in an immediate emergency situation or when threatening conditions are present. The threat can be internal or external, but it reflects an imminent issue or emergency unfolding at a site.
As we have been working to update, revise and adjust our emergency procedures, we have learned from other schools and agencies about terms they use. Because lockdown and soft lockdown are procedures that may be difficult to distinguish from each other, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is encouraging institutions to use completely independent terms.
Lockdown is an appropriate term to indicate an extreme or urgent situation. The name is accurate and descriptive—we lock down the site, the people within the site, and restrict movement.
Rather than repeat the term, Homeland Security is encouraging the use of the phrase “shelter in place.” Some of our neighbors, including the St. Cloud Area Schools and community, use the word, “containment” in place of a soft lockdown. Choosing to use a different word indicates a different kind of condition. The key difference is that the situation may become an emergency situation, but it is not an immediate threat.
SHELTER IN PLACE
Shelter in place is applied to a wide variety of situations. It can be used when we learn of troubling circumstances or a potential threat that may come to the school. It could be used to restrict some movement inside the building to conduct a search, bring in police canine units for a locker search, because of something happening outside the building.
The primary purpose is to be sure that our outside doors are locked, to increase our awareness of and attentiveness to visitors to the site, and to promote a greater degree of safety. Shelter in place is our term to be proactive in monitoring our buildings and protecting our students.
Our first priority in enacting the “shelter in place” is to provide added security and protection to our normal daily activities. When we use shelter in place, our primary effort is to protect those within the buildings from potential external concerns.
Classes are conducted as normal. Students move through their day as close to normal as we can make the situation. Movement into and out of the classroom is monitored more closely. The goal is to keep our exterior entrances closed and monitored in order to better protect those inside.
Last week’s situation is a good example of the application of a shelter in place condition. The situation was focused on a potential danger for one student at the secondary site. A student came to school and reported personal information which included a potential threat from someone outside the school district.
The situation was one in which there was a possibility that the outside individual might seek to harm the student. The person potentially creating the issue knew that the student had come to school. To prevent any kind of incident from taking place, we took the steps to call for a “shelter in place status”. This helped us to better and more carefully monitor visitors to the school.
Last week’s situation did not pose an imminent or immediate threat to any other building, individuals or locations. We were simply attempting to monitor those coming to the secondary site much more closely. There was no action required at any other school site.
As we consider the use of “shelter in place” protocol, we also give consideration to the point for sending out communications or notification about the status. Depending on the situation that arises, it may be necessary to share information quickly and publicly about the potential threat.
Most often, however, less attention to the situation is our best opportunity to provide better security and protection for the students going about their normal business. We may wait, in those situations, until the condition is resolved or until we know more detail before we share information about the shelter in place.
As each situation develops, we give careful consideration to the appropriate timing and type of information that may be shared.
The ROCORI School District was involved in some conversations about emergency procedures during the summer. In the early part of the summer, there was a training session at Resource Training and Solutions in Sartell regarding emergency plans and procedures.
In August, there was a community meeting, coordinated by representatives of Coldspring, to encourage broader community discussion about procedures, development of common emergency language, and sharing information across businesses within the community.
We will be engaging in more conversations like the one organized by Coldspring. We are in the process of inviting community leaders and particular businesses to a meeting to begin this sharing and discussion process. Based on the experiences in St. Cloud, this can be a valuable process to the entire community!
Because we recently used the new term, shelter in place, and its protocol, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share information about the ROCORI Schools. Hopefully, this helps community members to understand the processes we use and when we apply them.
Hopefully, this also helps people to understand the situation we experienced at the high school last week.
We take the protection of students—all of our students—as a very important issue. If situations develop in which we can offer greater attentiveness and awareness in order to better assist with student safety, we want to take those measures.