Emergency Management Partnership reviewed school safety crisis planning Thursday in Riverton

Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker was one of 14 speakers at a school safety partnership meeting Thursday in Riverton. (Ernie Over photo) 

(Riverton, Wyo.) – If and when there is a major school emergency in Fremont County, A.L.i.C.E. will be the student’s and staff’s best route to survival.

The A.L.i.C.E. program (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) has been instituted in several county school districts already and is becoming the national norm in how to deal with active shooter and other threats to schools. The three dozen representatives from area school districts and law enforcement agencies who participated in a second Emergency Management Partnership Meeting in Riverton, heard updates about the program and what School Resource Officers are implementing in their respective jurisdictions.

Held at the Fremont County BOCES offices on North Fifth West, the participants received an update from their first meeting held this fall. Issues that were identified then and since addressed included promoting the standardization of terminology that is used in school crisis plans throughout the county. “What is a lockdown,” asked FC BOCES Administrative Services Director Jane Edelman. “We are hoping to standardize what each school call things so everyone knows the terminology.” She said the term could mean a soft lockdown for precautions or a hard lockdown where students are instructed to shelter in place. At the direction of the partnership, FC BOCES prepared and distributed what common language now exists in all the school’s respective crisis plans, and where updates may be necessary.

FBI Agent Doug Walker and Sheriff Skip Hornecker. (EO)

FBI Agent Doug Walker and Sheriff Skip Hornecker. (EO)

Local FBI Agent Doug Walker reported that the Department of Homeland Security has partnered in the effort and he said detailed photos of each school in the county had now been taken. He said the detailed photos would be useful to law enforcement agencies, tactical teams, first responders and the schools. “We need to know what part of a school the problem is at and be familiar with it,” he said.

Most of the discussion at the meeting concerned “active shooter” scenarios at a school, and how best to deal with such an emergency for the best chance of student and staff survival.

Fremont County Sheriff Skip Hornecker said that his department would be involved in nearly every school emergency, either as a first responder or in a support role, especially with communications as the sheriff’s office houses the county’s primary 911 center (The Riverton Police Department has a second 911 center). “In nearly all situations, we will provide the emergency communications,” he said. Other support roles for the department would be helping to secure the perimeter of a scene so the primary responder could deal with the emergency and as back-up to other agencies.

“Dubois, Wind River, Hudson and Jeffrey City are those schools where we would be the first responders because those are our jurisdiction. Dubois and Wind River has School Resource Officers (SROs) who are very active in developing emergency response plans,” Hornecker said. “But I lose a lot of sleep due to the distance it would take to respond from the rest of the county, anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour,” he said. As a result, the sheriff said there would be a heavier responsibility or stronger response needed from staff in those schools themselves. “They will have to react before other emergency services come to their aid. I’m not saying this as a fear factor, but it’s a matter of fact.”

As such, Hornecker said each school’s respective emergency action plan would have to deal with that eventuality. And he said the staff at each school needs to be trained up for such a response.

NEXT IN THE SERIES: The role of A.L.i.C.E. in student and staff survival

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