Text-message alerts to be part of schools’  lockdown safety procedures for 2009-10

Nisley Elementary has had to initiate some type of lockdown procedure nine times in the past three years.

“Nisley has had its fair share,” said Tim Leon, safety coordinator for School District 51.

The majority of those instances involve authorities pursuing suspects near the school, but Nisley isn’t an unsafe school, Leon said.

“It’s because the staff is so well-trained,” he said.

Leon, a former school resource officer in his first year as safety coordinator for the district, said he is increasing lockdown practices, recommending a new lockdown policy to schools and preparing a new text-message, emergency-alert system for next school year.

A “lockdown” can be initiated by any school administrator and requires securing all interior and exterior doors.

Or, outside entities, such as law enforcement, can call for a “shelter in place,” in which only the exterior doors are locked.

Leon said a security expert recommended schools always start in lockdown, as a precautionary measure, and move to a shelter in place if the situation calls for it.

“That would be what we recommend to schools,” he said.

Leon said he has committed to issuing at least four “table-top drills” a year in which a lockdown scenario will be sent to schools to work through, and they won’t have much preparation time.

The text-message system should be ready for the 2009-10 school year and will be similar to the alert system officials used during the shootings on the campus of Virginia Tech in 2007, Leon said.

The system will send a text message to students, staff and parents, alerting them of any lockdown or shelter-in-place procedures initiated, Leon said.

And any person without a cell phone could then be contacted by some other means.

The messages could be sent districtwide or to a certain school’s attendance area, he said.

“What we’ve found is that word is going to get out if something happens, no matter what,” Leon said. “We want to get the facts out.”


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