Schools across Idaho standardize their safety protocols

Posted at 4:12 PM, Aug 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-28 19:17:46-04

MERIDIAN — Officers and school districts from across the state sat down to discuss what would help in times of an emergency. Months of conversations led to the Idaho Standard Command Responses for schools. Nearly 30 districts are implementing the system for the current school year.

"We’re all passionate about school safety, but are we practicing the best practices for our schools," asked Lt. Shawn Harper with Meridian Police Department.

The four main responses are evacuation, reverse evacuation, hall check, and lockdown. Not all the drills are new, but the terminology and practicing are, which makes communicating as an entire school and the expected movements more effective in times of an emergency.

"The lockdowns are trained 2 or more times per year, evacuations are monthly, but with the reverse evacuation and hall check, these can also be trained regularly," said Harper.

Hall checks are how the school safely secures kids when there’s not an active threat, but a reason to be uncomfortable, like an aggressive parent inside the building. Regular trainings for hall checks and reverse evacuations prepare students to act quicker in case of the real thing.

“Reverse evacuation is a procedure which is going to be somewhat new to a lot of people, but a lot of people call it 'end of recess' because it's getting kids back in(side)," said Harper.

West Ada, Nampa, Caldwell and Kuna are just a few of the treasure valley districts implementing the protocols. Other districts, like Bonneville and Marsing, are also on board, as well as several private and charter schools. 6 On Your Side cannot show the training videos in order to maintain the safety protocols, but each video is 2.5 minutes long and shows what everyone should do in each scenario, including teachers, students, the principal, and even visitors.

“This was built to fit any school district, any community, so it's not just for big school districts," said Harper.

Though the state does not require a standardized system, the goal on law enforcement’s end is to get there, especially to help teachers and students who move from one district to another.

"Having to learn new safety protocols is challenging because, under stress, you’re going to revert back to what you last remembered, so if we’re all standardized, it's going to reduce the amount of stress and anxiety in kids," said Harper.

Harper and other local officers will travel around the state to train, but they also built a 'train the trainer’ program, which trains other law enforcement officers and fire departments, so everyone, all the teachers and officers around the state, are on the same page.

“We all need to be talking the same language because if you have a variation in your communication, it can change ultimately the outcome in regards to dealing with emergencies," said Harper.

A group of officers is going to Parma in October and providing the training in partnership with Canyon County Sheriff’s Office. Fruitland, Payette, Weiser, and Soda Springs are set to implement the command responses next school year.