National News

Wake schools reflect on safety plans after Ohio tragedy

Posted February 28, 2012 10:48 p.m. EST
Updated February 29, 2012 5:26 a.m. EST

— In the wake of a deadly school shooting in Ohio, Wake County schools are reflecting on the importance of their safety protocol.

Russ Smith, senior director of security for the Wake County Public School System, said all schools in the county have emergency plans in place to try to block threats and help minimize damage.

"Emergencies are going to happen in our schools," Smith said. "We prepare for when that time will come."

Last year, nearly 350 weapons were found on Wake County school grounds. Some were small, low-risk items, such as nail files, but Smith said a handful of guns were also found.

In the case of a gunman on campus, Smith said, schools go into lockdown.

That means all doors are locked, students take cover and color-coded cards are put up in windows to tell emergency responders where the danger is. Each room is equipped with a red bag containing emergency supplies, such as bandages and flashlights.

"Teachers have what they need in an emergency situation," Smith said.

A second emergency kit – a black box – is stored in the school's main office, he said. It contains tools – a building master key, floor plans and schedules for students – that help give police officers an advantage over a school shooter. 

But an emergency plan can't be effective without continued practicing, Smith said. Last year, 15 agencies participated in a large drill that simulated a school shooting to test emergency response.

Those drills help keep students safe, he said.

"Parents want their kids to be safe," Smith said. "I have kids in the system. I want to make sure they are safe."