School safety drills: Are emergency crews prepared?

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by Karen Hopkins, 13News Now

Karen Hopkins, 13News Now

Posted on November 21, 2013 at 6:07 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 21 at 7:41 PM

HAMPTON ROADS -- Every parent fears the possibility of a shooting at their child's school and hopes that administrators, teachers and emergency workers are prepared in case of the unthinkable. 

In a 13News Now investigation, we found out that many times emergency crews aren't involved in the drills meant to protect your kids.

According to the Virginia School Safety Audit, full scale drills including police, fire and EMS were performed at 27 percent of high schools, 23 percent of middle schools and only 18 percent of elementary schools in 2012.

Parent Kim Zweifler questioned how emergency crews can respond properly to a school crisis if they aren't involved in more drills.

“I'm not sure their reasons for not doing them at all the schools,” Zweifler said. 

According to data, most schools in Hampton Roads do not perform the drills with emergency crews. 

So far this year, active shooter drills including police, fire or EMS were practiced in only three of 19 schools in Suffolk. Of 33 schools in Hampton, one or two randomly chosen schools performed the drills with emergency crews.  Chesapeake has 45 schools, but only one practiced with emergency personnel.

“If a crazy person is there, it's going to be very hard if they are determined to get in. We need to know how to respond if they do,” Virginia Beach Education Association President Trenace Riggs said.

Riggs, who recently retired after teaching for 37 years in Virginia Beach, said she never saw emergency responders participate in a drill at her school.

“If they came out, I did not know they were there,” Riggs said. 

We asked Suffolk School Board Chair Mike Debranski about including emergency crews in school safety drills.

“It makes sense we should be more aware of the practice and policy of getting people in the right place for an ultimate tragedy like that. We will question our people and find out how much of this is being done, and what we need to do,” Debranski said. 

However, Virginia Beach Police spokeswoman Tonya Borman argues that doing more drills isn't practical because multiple agencies are involved.  

“We plan ahead for these events, these training scenarios, months before,” Borman said. 

This year, a new law took effect making schools share their crisis management plans with first responders. In many cases, police have layouts of every school, so in case of a crisis, officers can know how to navigate through the buildings.

School shooting scenarios are not required under state law. However, last year nearly a quarter of schools statewide conducted the drills with emergency responders anyway. 

Borman says that Virginia Beach crews held a drill in March at Corporate Landing Middle School.

“There are different things going on behind the scenes. You have your command where you will have your information center, your emergency triage for injuries and police response,” Borman explained.

Although resources make it difficult to practice drills with emergency personnel at every school, Mom Alicia Ricks wishes they could figure out a way.

“Even if you only save one life, one life is better than saving none,” Ricks said.  

Click on the following link If you'd like to contact your school board to weigh in on the issue:

Virginia Beach City Public Schools
Norfolk Public Schools
Suffolk Public Schools
Hampton City Schools
Newport News Public Schools
Chesapeake Public Schools

 


 

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