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WCPS employees trained to deal with emergencies

December 14, 2012|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

Washington County Public Schools thoroughly trains its employees for all kinds of emergency situations, a school district spokesman said Friday in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that left 28 people dead.

“We do thorough training. Of course, no one can predict every situation, and sometimes they are impossible to keep from happening,” said Richard Wright, spokesman for WCPS.

Emergency drills take place twice a year at every school, Wright said. Administrators receive “active shooter” training every year where they learn about procedures to follow during a shooting situation.

Administrators also take a FEMA course titled Incident Command System, which helps them train for emergencies. “This training then filters down to teachers,” Wright said.

Local law enforcement officials often train at different school campuses after-hours. “They are embedded in the process. They are familiar with the layout of different schools,” Wright said.

There are police officers, known as school resource officers, who work with school employees and each officer is in charge of a group of schools. Currently, WCPS has seven school resource officers.

Steve Ganley, safety and security manager for the county schools system, said the WCPS emergency plan has been improved over the years.

“We have improved on the training and learned from real situations,” Ganley said.

“And I think it is always a good time to review security policies and procedures,” Wright added.

Some of this emergency training is put into effect when schools declare “modified lockdowns.”

Such lockdowns, according to Wright, are declared at a school when there might be a bank robbery or other emergency near a school.

“The students stay in the school. No one is allowed out for recess,” Wright said.

Employees, staff and students also take part in evacuation drills. Fire drills take place every 30 days.

WCPS also uses a phone system called “Alert Now,” which allows school officials to notify parents quickly about a developing situation.

Wright said the school district uses a “security vestibule” where visitors have to be buzzed in by an employee to access a school.

“Our deepest sympathies are with the victims of this tragedy,” said Wright, adding that the county school system emphasizes training so that employees are prepared for emergencies. “Of course, no one can predict when someone will do something.”

CNN reported Friday that a new security system had just been installed at the Connecticut elementary school where the shooting took place.

Officials at Berkeley County, W. Va., released a statement Friday saying that the school district has “security plans in place including access security systems, staff training and student emergency drills. We work closely with local law enforcement and emergency responders.”

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