School Resource Officer Blogs About School Safety

My name is Officer Chubb; I am the school resource officer for the Auburn Hills Police Department.  Chief Olko asked if I would be a guest blogger and discuss the topic of school safety, with an emphasis on how we help facilitate school lockdown drills within our community.  The City of Auburn Hills has within its borders, schools from the Avondale and Pontiac School Districts, as well as two parochial schools.

The Auburn Hills Police Department ensures that all schools follow the School Lockdown/Shelter-in-Place Drill Policy.  In 2006, Governor Jennifer Granholm signed into law two pieces of legislation:  Act No. 187, Public Acts of 2006 (House Bill 4460), and Act No. 337, Public Acts of 2006 (Senate Bill 1108), both amending Act 207, PA 1941, the Fire Prevention Code.  This legislation requires a minimum of 2 drills for each school year, in which occupants are restricted to the interior of the building and the building is secured.  This must be conducted at all schools that operate any of the grades kindergarten to 12, with security measures that are appropriate to an emergency, such as the release of a hazardous material or the presence of an armed individual on or near the premises.

The State of Michigan also requires that a minimum of 8 fire drills are completed during each school year.

In my opinion the State of Michigan should change the requirements for lockdown drills and fire drills; they should require a minimum of 8 lockdown drills and a minimum of 2 fire drills, per school year.  The reason I believe this is not because I don’t think fire drills are important, but rather because there hasn’t been a child killed in a school fire in the United States since 1958, when 92 children and 3 nuns died, when Our Lady of Angels burned in Chicago, Illinois.

Unfortunately, between 1992 and 2012, there were a total of 67 “Active Shooter” type incidents at schools throughout the United States.  There were a total of 67 incidents, with 229 injured and 159 fatalities.  There were a total of 4 incidents at Elementary Schools, 12 at Middle Schools, 35 at High Schools, and 16 at Colleges/Universities.

The top priority for me as the school resource officer is to provide a safe and secure building for both the students and staff.  The way I go about ensuring this is by practicing the lockdown procedures that were put in place by members of the Auburn Hills Police Department, and administrators from the Avondale and Pontiac School Districts, as well as the parochial schools.  The lockdown drills are practiced a minimum of 2 times a year; with most buildings running at least three lockdown drills a year.

There are 3 plans that are practiced throughout the year, a code red lockdown, a code yellow lockdown, and a code green evacuation.  In a code red lockdown the entire building is secured, the exterior doors are secured, all movement within the school is restricted, the individual classroom doors are locked, the lights are turned off, and the students and staff are huddled in a corner away from doors and windows.  In a code yellow lockdown the exterior doors are secured and monitored, the individual classroom doors are locked, and movement within the building is restricted to changing classes and emergency restroom breaks.  In a code green evacuation, the students and staff are moved out of the building, and to a designated area based on the reason for evacuation, i.e. parking lot or football field.

A code red lockdown would be used for a violent incident that was occurring within the school, an example would be an active shooter within the school building.  A code yellow lockdown would be used for an incident that was occurring in the general vicinity of the school building, and example would be a barricaded gunman situation in the general vicinity of the school building.  A code green evacuation would be used to evacuate the building, an example would be a chemical spill in the chemistry lab.

A very important component of the lockdown drills is the emergency plaque that is found in every room, of every school, within the Avondale and Pontiac School Districts, as well as the parochial schools.  The plaque is designed to be a visual indicator for the responding officers.  The plaque is two sided, one side is green, and the other side is red.  The plaque is designed to be placed underneath the classroom door during an emergency, if the green side is up, everything is o.k.  If the red side is up, there is an emergency within the classroom, which could mean the aggressor is inside the classroom, or there are students inside the classroom in need of medical attention.

When conducting the lockdown drills, I always accompany the principals; this ensures that if a mistake is observed by me or the principal, it can be addressed immediately and corrected.

I think that it is very important to mention that the Auburn Hills Police Department takes school safety very seriously, and did prior to the tragedy that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut.  The Auburn Hills Police Department, and departments across the United States, changed the way they respond to active shooter events after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School.

The Auburn Hills Police Department has trained and equipped their patrol officers for active shooter response; officers utilize the CREST Center for force on force training, at Oakland Community College on a yearly basis.  Lieutenant Miarka and Michelle Imbrunone, the Principal at Avondale High School, are currently planning for an active shooter training scenario this summer at the high school.  There is also active shooter response training on the horizon that will combine officers from area departments, and train them similarly, so that they could work together as a team in an actual active shooter event.

There were no major changes at any of the school buildings in terms of security after the Newtown, Connecticut incident.  However, I did receive multiple calls from concerned parents, and was able to put them at ease after I explained the lockdown procedure, and security protocols that were already in place.  Lieutenant Miarka and I also spoke about security procedure and policy, at the Avondale parent forum in January of 2013.

Deputy Director Hardesty has put forth a great amount of time and research into a threat assessment program, and is hopeful that he will be able to implement that program within the Avondale and Pontiac School Districts, as well as two parochial schools, in a timely manner.

The partnership that exists between the Auburn Hills Police Department and the individual schools within the City of Auburn Hills is fantastic.  We all appreciate the Auburn Hills City Council who know the benefit of providing our schools with a highly trained school resource officer.