DODDS officials: Regular drills keep schools secure
After six students and a school principal were killed in three separate school shootings in the United States a few weeks ago, President Bush called experts together to discuss ways to make stateside schools safer.
Officials at Europe’s Department of Defense schools say they have had such procedures in place since before Sept. 11, 2001.
Pacific school officials also say student protection from such violence has been a concern for many years.
“However, when incidents occur in the States or elsewhere it provides us an opportunity to review our policies and procedures,” Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific spokesman Charles Steitz said Friday.
Schools throughout the Pacific are required to practice lockdown and evacuation exercises covering a range of scenarios set out in operating procedures, he said. School administrators also must hold at least one exercise in conjunction with their base.
“Last year we instituted the procedure for the district and area security, safety and antiterrorism officers to initiate an unannounced lockdown in each school, having another set of eyes to observe and make recommendations if they noticed any vulnerabilities,” Steitz said.
Each month, educators on bases in Europe hold “lockdown” exercises to prepare elementary, middle and high school pupils and teachers to shelter together in a locked space in case of an emergency, DODDS-Europe spokesman David Ruderman said in an e-mail.
During the exercise, military police attempted to enter locked classrooms while children took shelter against a wall.
“Experts in the field have concluded that there is safety in numbers and better security when students and teachers remain in one place until safe evacuation can be assured,” he said.
Lockdowns are done in cooperation with installation and garrison commanders and law enforcement officials, and exercises are age-appropriate for the children involved, Ruderman said.
“These go above and beyond those found in stateside schools because our programs add an anti-terrorism dimension,” he said.
Reporters Seth Robson and Megan McCloskey contributed to this report.