Rochester Public Schools Evaluate Emergency Response Procedures

Posted at: 09/03/2013 11:27 PM
Updated at: 09/03/2013 11:37 PM
By: Steph Crock

(ABC 6 News) -- It was the first day of school for many kids and school districts have spent months preparing, some even re-evaluating their safety procedures. It's always a top priority, especially with shootings like Sandy Hook, but that's not the only reason the Rochester Public School District is considering change.

RPS Superintendent Michael Munoz says the district is being proactive. From a round table discussion, to bringing in outside safety experts, it wants to stay informed on the most effective practices in emergency situations.

"Unfortunately incidents happen. The one thing it does, is give us the ability to be better at it," said Rochester Police Chief Roger Peterson. The Rochester Police Department has been working closely with Rochester Public Schools for years, dissecting what safety procedures are most effective. "To the observer on the outside, it may not look like a lot has changed, but I can tell you there's been a very dramatic change in how those situations are viewed and how we respond to them," said Chief Peterson.

He says, over the past few years, the way police approach a "lock-down" situation, has completely changed. “Is the two, three, four, maybe 10 or 12 minutes that big of a deal? It sure is if my kids are in that building and that's the way we look at it," said Chief Peterson. He says they are working on things like response times and where their team needs to be. "The real focus is to respond directly where that threat is and to immediately mitigate that threat," said Chief Peterson.

Rochester Public Schools also turned to the "Educator’s School Safety Network" for tips on the best safety practices. "When these presenters presented, that wasn't brand new, what was interesting is that they had some good data to support the research they've done," said Sup. Munoz.  They heard from the group not with intentions of inheriting a whole new plan, more so to stay open to possible adjustments.

"They're not suggesting that you don't do lockdowns, they're just suggesting that when you're in a room and are going to stay there, that you pile things in front of the door and make it more difficult for someone to get in," said Sup. Munoz. The group even suggests students flee the building if they're near an exit, but these suggestions won't just be implemented overnight. "It was a good learning experience not only for us on the school side but I think for all of the other organizations that we work with," said Sup. Munoz.

That conversation continues to be ongoing. "The stakes are just too high to put off that conversation until later," said Chief Peterson.

Tuesday was also to the first day of using the security camera and buzzer system at schools in Rochester. Superintendent Munoz said when he showed up to the schools, he didn't use his key but "buzzed in" like everyone else to put staff to the test. He says, they passed.