Huron Valley Schools hires consulting company to help fine-tune its school security plans

Middle school in Commerce Township used to demonstrate success of emergency lockdown drills in Huron Valley schools

Safety has to be a priority for schools, and in Michigan they are required to do at least two lockdown drills a year.  

One metro Detroit school district has hired a consulting firm to fine tune the safety plans for its schools.

Local 4 was given special access to Oak Valley Middle School, a Huron Valley School,  as the school held an emergency lockdown drill.   The drill was carried out during a passing period as students are making their way from one class to the next.

"Passing time adds a little more confusion to it and it helps people think a little bit faster to make sure that people go back into their prepared role," said Diane Chema, associate principal, Oak Valley Middle School.  "We have done many during class time and I wanted to change it up a little bit so that we, just make sure we keep everybody aware of what to do in the non-normal times."

There are two types of lockdown drills; general and emergency.  General lockdowns are called when children need to stay in the classrooms but teaching continues and emergency lockdown are called when there is a threat like an intruder.

The order for an emergency lockdown drill went out a couple minutes into the 10:07 a.m. passing period and kids quickly move into the nearest classroom, which is not necessarily their own class.

"It's pretty freaky to be honest," said Weston Hughes, a seventh grader at Oak Valley Middle School. "You're not expecting it and sometimes you feel like its actually happening and it's real."

Weston Hughes is a 7th grader in Chris Turner's social studies class where Local 4 had a camera rolling during this emergency lockdown drill.

Once students are in the classroom, teachers are instructed to turn off their lights and lock their doors.   Students go to one side of the room, get down on the floor and keep their heads down.

"They go right in.  I shut off the lights.  They immediately go against one of the walls, duck down low so you cannot see them. I have my windows blacked out so you can't see into the classroom.  So without someone having a key to get in, there is no way they could even see that there were students even in the classroom," said Turner.

If this was a real life emergency and not a drill, students could have to stay down and silent for several hours.  The school makes the drill last for several minutes, preparing students and staff for that possibility.

"They remain silent the entire time, they remain down the entire time and we talked with them about how if the door does open not to pop their head up and look at whoever is coming in just to be on the safe side," said Turner.

While the students are locked down in their classrooms, the school's crisis team is called into action.

"What we want to make sure is that all the students and staff are accounted for, so once we get word that we are safe, I have the crisis team report to the office," said Chema.

Members of the crisis team are given different sections of the school to to safety and security checks of students and to collect attendance.   The crisis team then uses the attendance sheets they collect to verify every student is accounted for since students can be in a different classroom than their own.
The crisis team is made up of the school's counselors, office staff, the principal, at least one teacher and Chema.  Each member is easily identified with special crisis team shirts in bright orange.

It's associate principal Diane Chema's job to run the fire, tornado and lockdown drills for the school.  During this drill she downgrades the lockdown from emergency to general once every student is accounted for; that means students must stay in their classrooms but teaching can begin again.

Chema was satisfied with the performance of students and staff during this emergency lockdown drill.

"They did very well, the staff did very well, I was very confident and I think it was a great success," said Chema.

"Their performance today was stellar I was really excited about how they, their desire to do a lockdown during a passing period," said Scott Hiipakka, vice president and chief services officer for Patriot Services Corporation.

Scott Hiipakka from Patriot Services Corporation was watching the lockdown drill.  His company provides provides homeland security and emergency preparedness services all businesses all over the country including schools.

Patriot Services Corporation was hired by Huron Valley Schools to evaluate the security measures inside all of its schools.

"They will go foot by foot, they will check all entrances, exits, any areas that are of concern and really give us what is the best practice in school security and safety," said Huron Valley Schools superintendent Jim Baker.

"We'll look at access control as one of our start points, look at their emergency plans and make recommendations for changes to their existing emergency plans or make recommendations that they increase their emergency plans to include other possible events or crises that may or may not happen," said Hiipakka.

"Every single thing we do throughout this school day has got to be focused on keeping kids safe so that they can learn," said Baker.

Students at Oak Valley Middle School feel secure and not worried about their safety.

"People try to protect us, so it just makes me feel safer," said Hughes.

Since the deadly school shooting in Newtown, CT, Patriot Services said it has received many calls from schools and businesses wanting to take another look at their security measures.  For more information on what Patriot Services provides, click here.

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