Locking down a plan

To prepare for the worst of circumstances, local law enforcement and school officials have been working together to update the crisis management plan for local schools. That plan was discussed Monday night at Webster City Middle School.

Two Webster City Police Officers, Captain Tony Janssen and Sergeant Ed Wardell, were on hand to discuss the plan and take questions from parents, school staff and community members. Janssen said the way that schools and law enforcement have dealt with threats in or near schools changed after the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999.

“Law enforcement changed and the school system changed. The biggest change was that we started working together,” Janssen said.

He said those changes included partnerships in creating crisis plans as well as increasing law enforcement presence in school areas.

In the implemented plan, Janssen said there are three lockdown levels to deal with intruders and a variety of other situations. Those levels account for a threat outside or in close proximity to the school, a possible dangerous situation inside the school and a final level if there is an active shooter in a school facility.

A level one lockdown would be issued if there is a danger outside of a local school. Janssen said the school could enact such a lockdown for a variety of reasons. Events including criminal activity, a domestic dispute where the offender leaves the scene and other situations where the police believe a person that could be a nearby threat would cause a level one lockdown. This low level lockdown could also be used if there was a traffic accident outside that faculty would not want students to see, according to Janssen.

In such cases, Janssen said the police department would contact schools and recommend a level one lockdown. For that lockdown, staff would lock exterior doors and those at recess or other outside activities would be brought inside. No one would be allowed to enter or exit the building until the lockdown was lifted. However, Janssen said that students and teachers would continue with their day as usual indoors.

“The students, I’m wagering, would barely notice a level one lockdown,” Janssen said.

He also said the school could issue a lockdown and notify the police.

A level two lockdown would be used when there is a possible dangerous situation inside of a school building. Janssen said many of the same concepts apply for this level of lockdown as the first. However, teachers would lock their classroom doors and students would not be allowed access to hallways. Still, classes would continue as normal within their rooms.

The lockdown procedures for this level might include domestic violence coming into the school, or a medical emergency in a common area, according to Janssen. He said the school has used such a lockdown when a student had a medical issue. The lockdown was issued so paramedics could easily get through hallways and as a courtesy to the student and others, he said.

Janssen spent most of his time discussing the final level of lockdown that can be issued. A level three lockdown is issued in a worst-case scenario when there is an active shooter inside a school facility trying to cause as many fatalities as possible. Janssen said such a lockdown is very dynamic and tries to account for the chaotic nature of such an event.

However, he said that the initial function of police officers is very clear in that situation. Their first goal is to stop the threat the shooter poses. All other procedures, evacuation, triage and first aid, reuniting kids with parents and everything else comes second to stopping the shooter.

“All those things will happen, but initially law enforcement has one response and that’s to respond to the threat, locate it and stop that threat. When we’re training our officers, this agency and other agencies come in and give them scenarios. If there’s hurt kids grabbing our pant legs because they want attention, we’ll step over them and continue to the threat. That’s harsh and that’s cruel, but the key is to stop the shooter as quickly as we can,” Janssen said.

The plan of entering the building and going straight for the shooter reduces the window of time they have to harm people, according to Janssen. After the shooter or shooters have been neutralized, he said police, school administration and medical professionals will focus on caring for and evacuating students.

During time for questions, the officers and school administration officials discussed other security measures at the school, including doors that lock from the inside, a camera system that feeds directly to the Webster City Police Department and police patrols in and around local schools.

The public meeting was the first of three. Meetings on the plan will also be held on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. in the Webster City Middle School commons. All parents and community members are invited.