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El Paso County Colorado District 49

D 49 lockdown drills defined

In December, Falcon Middle School held a lockdown drill; and, while school officials said they had announced the drill; a few parents said they had not been notified.Dave Watson, Falcon School District 49 safety and emergency coordinator, defined the process and reasons for drills. The district must assess each schoolís preparedness and gauge the response to a potential crisis, he said. ìRecent events have reminded school and district leaders that a crisis can occur at any time, and we should always expect the unexpected and be prepared,î Watson said.While the drills might appear real, the exercise is always prefaced with an announcement that it is a practice drill, Watson said. ìDuring a drill we never want to cause panic or alarm,î he said. ìWe want to practice what we would do in real live events and want to get as close to that as we can but we donít want anyone to get hurt, or cause panic or alarm.ìWe make every attempt to announce that itís only a drill and we want to let students know that, as well as staff members. Some drills are scheduled and some arenít.îWatson said in the event of an unscheduled drill, an email notifying parents of the students will be sent out 15 minutes prior to the drill. Following the drill, the school will send out additional correspondence to update parents and tell them how the drill went, he said.Stephanie Wurtz, D 49 public information officer, said, ìIn the event of a real emergency, parents will be notified. If they arenít getting these emails and phone calls during drills, they may need to modify their contact information so they do get them.îìIn a true emergency, the first priority is the studentsí safety, and we will make sure that has been established before we send anything out to the community,î Watson said. ìOnce they (the students) have been secured, we will work with law enforcement and district leaders to work as a team to let parents know what is happening and what to expect. There would be a reunification with instructions. But our first priority is the stability and safety of the students and staff on that campus.ìWe donít always notify the public for all the fire drills and that. Every school has to do at least one fire drill each month. There is discussion about sending out correspondence to community member for each of those, so that going forward we can establish a standard.îWatson said the drills are effective and working as planned. ìItís a good learning experience for all,î he said. ìWe take the safety of all our students and staff very seriously. We want to make sure we have policies and procedures in place to keep people as safe as we can. Thatís why we have unannounced drills (with 15-minute notices) to make sure we can assess those procedures and make sure theyíre working the way theyíre supposed to.îWatson said he wanted to remind parents to contact their childrenís school or schools to make sure they have updated email addresses and phone numbers there and on Infinite Campus so they can continually get alerts. He said community members can also go to the D 49 website to sign up to receive emergency messages.

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