Lockdown practice at Tri-City schools
School District 43 will be fine-tuning its emergency communications plan and co-ordinating lock-down drills at several Coquitlam schools beginning this week.
The goal, according to assistant superintendent Julie Pearce, is to familiarize staff and students with emergency protocols and to establish a chain of command for distributing information.
Beginning Wednesday, Gleneagle secondary will practise a Code Red — a full-lock lockdown — while nearby Scott Creek middle will practise a Code Yellow.
Pearce said the drills follow discussions with Coquitlam RCMP and Port Moody Police Department about proper procedures and is part of a long-term project in which all schools in the district take part in regular emergency drills.
The latest round of drills follows a Code Red lockdown at Mundy Road elementary in December after students reported seeing an armed man walking through the school grounds. Police attended the scene but did not find a suspect and the lockdown was lifted.
The district’s social media co-ordinator said a meeting of police, school district and city officials (to be held yesterday after The Tri-City News’ print deadline) will establish a chain of command for getting out accurate information, especially online and through social media.
Heather Escaravage said the district’s role will likely be to re-tweet information released by the RCMP.
“We’re going to go with existing procedures,” she said. “It will be the police that will be the lead, and as the day goes on, at what point do we look at the communications.”
Students and staff will also be discouraged from texting or using their phones, especially in a Code Red incident, Pearce said.
“What we’ve asked them in Code Red is not to have their cell phones on. We don’t want to have cell phones ringing, we don’t want them talking,” Pearce explained. But in Code Yellow situations, teachers will be allowed to check email for information.
After Gleneagle and Scott Creek practise Code Red and Code Yellow drills Feb. 13 and March 1, other schools will do the same in subsequent weeks: Citadel middle will practise Code Red on Feb. 25, Alderson elementary on March 6 and Cedar Drive elementary on March 7.
Code Yellow is implemented when a threat is commonly outside of a school, such as a bear in the neighbourhood or a nearby police incident. Under Code Yellow, students are kept in their classrooms, no one is allowed in and out of the building, and interior or exterior doors are locked.
In a Code Red situation, the threat could be inside the building, requiring the locking of all interior and exterior doors, turning off the lights, lowering the shutters, and hiding the children out of sight. As well, no one leaves or enters the building.
According to Pearce, Coquitlam RCMP and a police dog may be attending the Code Red drills.