I recently attended a meeting to discuss school emergency preparedness. This topic has been on the top of parents' minds since the tragic massacre of school kids at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut.
Here's some of what I learned in this meeting.
In an emergency situation, the authorities need to account for every child. Parents would need to go throught he appropriate channels to retrieve their child from the emergency. Parents cannot just come and take their child without letting the proper people know because then the authorities will wonder what happened to your child and will divert resources to go look for your child.
One of the middle schools in the Cupertino Union School District is designated as the central location for students in case of an emergency. That middle school is stocked with ample food, water, electrtical generators, etc. The authorities expect that in an emergency, most parents would take a break from their work to retrieve their child within 2-4 hours. However, if some parents continue to work during the emergency, they will be able to pick up their child from this designated middle school gathering point.
There are 25 schools that would feed kids to that designated middle school in the event of an emergency.
One of the officials at the meeting was instrumental at getting a $250,000 grant from Congressman Honda after a visit to Washington DC. Using that money, he subcontracted with a security company that devised a comprehensive $82,000 plan for school safety.
That official is a personal friend of Carla Holdsclaw, the person who trademarked the terms "code red" and "code blue". Other schools, who don't have permission from Ms. Holdsclaw will have to use the terms "Full lockdown" and "Shutdown in place" instead.
The biggest topic of this meeting was the discussion about whether a fence around the campus would be effective in preventing a Sandy Hook disaster. The cost of installing a fence for the 15 schools that don't have a fence would be in the millions of dollars. Some of the people questioned whether a fence would be effective in holding out a determined potential assailant. Another issue was in the event of a fire on campus, would a fence hold kids trapped inside with the flames, as was the case with the Brazilian tragedy where over 200 people perished.
One of the officers brought up the idea of having more parent volunteers patrolling campus. He also urged parents to talk their kids about safety.
The overall topic of safety in our schools will continue to be a hot topic for a while.