School leaders, DCSO remind parents of emergency procedures

All schools in the county are now in session.

Along with A-B-Cs, calculus and other academic classes, students will also participate in mandatory safety drills throughout the year to prepare and learn how to behave in emergency situations. School administrators say it’s helpful for parents to familiarize themselves with and understand emergency protocols too.

Fire and earthquake drills have been around for a long time and involve evacuation and finding sturdy places to shelter. Lockdown and lockout procedures for dealing with threats inside or outside a building are newer, and can often cause anxiety for parents. Administrators hope to alleviate uncertainty and anxiety by educating parents and community members on what happens during these two procedures, both in drill and in a real emergency.

“We get it. It’s a natural reaction to want to rush to the school and protect your child or call the school. ‘Lockout’ and ‘lockdown’ are terms fraught with emotion. However, it can actually create riskier situations for parents, emergency responders, children and staff within the school, and it can introduce additional obstacles to resolving an incident,” said Patrick Lee, superintendent at Camas Valley Charter School.

Lockdown and lockout, while similar terms, elicit very different protocols and responses from school staff and students. Police and other emergency personnel respond differently based on the protocol used, as well.

Keeping traffic, parking lots and phone lines clear for emergency vehicles and communication becomes a priority, and an influx of parents arriving on campus or calling the school’s phone can block necessary access for police and other authorities.

“Parents can help by waiting for direction from first responders and avoid going to the scene,” Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin said. “It is critical that first responders are unimpeded and allowed to get to the situation as soon as possible before parents and other concerned citizens arrive.”

A “lockout” is issued as a response to a threat outside the school campus and means “secure the perimeter.” Students go inside the building, exterior and classroom doors are locked to restrict traffic in and outside the building. During a lockout, class and the school day go on as usual.

A “lockdown” is issued because there is a threat inside the building. Lockdown response within the school is “locks, lights, out of sight” and means all doors are locked, lights are turned off and students and staff hide in silence. Everyone remains in lockdown until emergency responders and/or administrators give an all clear.

In both situations no one is allowed in or out of the building until directed by law enforcement personnel.

“The best course of action for parents is to wait. We know that can feel difficult and counter to parental instincts, but it’s the safest thing to do,” Lee said.

Sheriff John Hanlin said waiting for an “all clear” or further direction from emergency personnel is the safest response for everyone involved.

Many schools in Douglas County use or are moving toward the Standard Response Protocol provided by the iloveyouguys Foundation; however, it is not a universal system. Douglas ESD leaders recommend parents familiarize themselves with their school’s emergency response protocol.