Security and Emergency Preparedness: When the Worst Happens
On December 13th 2013, a school shooting took place at Arapahoe High School in Littleton Colorado. Guy Grace, Director of Security and Emergency Planning Littleton Public Schools, was a responder to the shooting and was the On-Scene School District Incident Command Coordinator during the event and the subsequent evacuation of the school.
In a webinar, Grace highlighted several aspects, including how staff, students and district reacted to the emergency at hand and how they prepared for the “all hazards” emergencies at the time.
According to Grace, the entire shooting was over in 8 seconds, in part, he says because of the quick reaction of the school staff, who had just had a lockdown drill 30 days prior to the incident.
All other Littleton Public Schools were impacted, he said, and the high school was searched from the tunnels below to the all classrooms and the rooftop.
Grace also discussed security, emergency management and communication technologies that were helpful and in place during the incident. A command post was set up to work with law enforcement and the fire department. Grace and his team also had support from retail and other businesses around the school.Interoperability with police and fire allowed Grace and his team to communicate to law enforcement and first responders, a lesson he says was learned from the Columbine incident.
“Our integrated security system was important for first responders and for reviewing the crime,” he explained. “Also our remote lockdown function was crucial, as was the fire system, because an explosive device was deployed in the library by the shooter.”
Problems that hampered the investigation of the incident included limited cellphone service and misinformation from the media, Grace said.
Last, Grace discussedsome of the general improvements that were made to security and emergency preparedness areas in the aftermath of the shooting. “First, the command center and the security office was limited, with only four video screens and one station for one security officer. We had 26 other buildings needing support as law enforcement, so the learning we did was to upgrade our centralized security center, with enough stations for other responders.”
Second, Grace said that all teachers will soon have panic devices to use in the event of an emergency, the district’s surveillance camera system will be migrated to an IP system by 2017, and a mobile security monitoring system will soon give 145 security personnel and first responders access to security cameras at all schools, via laptops.
In addition, all school doors will soon have locks, and all school resource officers have received additional training in active shooter situation and mental health for teenagers.