When an incident was reported at Ohio State University Nov. 28, students were given instructions to “Run, Hide, Fight” by school officials.
The motto has become a standard at colleges throughout the country in the event of an active shooter situation. Students are encouraged to follow the instructions in order: run somewhere safe, hide from the suspect(s) and fight as a last resort.
In Santa Clarita, the valley’s five school districts and three colleges have comparable instructions and policies when responding to similar situations on their school campuses.
At nearly all of the valley’s schools, students are trained in lockdown proceedings, teachers are informed of emergency response measures and administrators are actively communicating to make campuses, and their students, safe.
These methodologies were already used this year during a brief lockdown at Saugus High School Nov. 18 when rumors circulated that a student was armed on campus.
The incident turned out to be a hoax started by an 11th grade student, but the swift response from the school and the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station reinforced the notion that schools in the area are actively prepared and ready in the event of a real threat to school campuses.
William S. Hart Union School District
In the William S. Hart Union High School District, which serves high schools and middle schools in the area, students undergo two lockdown drills per year: one that is scripted and one that is not.
“Those procedures are drilled and in the case of Saugus, (Principal) Bill Bolde told me that he was very proud of students and staff because they followed procedures and instructions very well,” said Dave Caldwell, public information officer for the Hart District.
In the first drill, teachers go through the expectations of students and staff in the event of a school lockdown, according to Caldwell. During this time, students ask questions and teachers discuss the processes of the drill.
“Later in the year, there will be an actual lockdown drill,” Caldwell said. “Law enforcement will be on campus and will observe what happens and the administration will also be observing to then assess needs at that point.”
The live drills allow administrators to continuously update policies and improve facilities, while enforcing the need for expediency in student response.
During Saugus High School’s lockdown drill in March, the school’s assistant principal reiterated the nationwide motto of “Run, Hide, Fight” to The Signal.
“They need to run, hide and fight,” Saugus High School Assistant Principal Rich Bahr said. “Get into refuge, cover any windows. Try to be as invisible as possible.”
Caldwell also credits the district’s relationship with law enforcement and school resource officers in keeping the campus prepared.
“We have such a great relationship and the communication line is always wide open,” he said. “Those officers are on campus and know the students.”
Elementary and Middle Schools
For schools in the Castaic Union School District and Newhall School District, securing campus locations throughout the year is of the utmost importance.
Schools in the Saugus Union School District also make campus security a top priority by using Measure EE funds to create a single point of entry and update security systems with exterior door locks at all of its schools.
In the Castaic District, campuses develop individual school safety plans to best fit the needs of their students, according to Jaime Garcia, director of facilities for the Castaic District.
“They create a comprehensive safety plan… that includes how site safety is responded to and what actions to take and it’s under the direction of the school administrator,” Garcia said. “The principal has direction if there is a lockdown.”
As director of facilities, Garcia’s role is to insure that the school’s physical security is in place with concepts like secured gates, high fences and locking doors.
The sites also do drills and reviews to find inadequacies that are then communicated to Garcia’s office to remedy.
Schools in the Newhall District also conduct lockdown drills and are in a continuous dialogue about how to improve facility safety procedures, according to Newhall District Superintendent Paul Cordeiro.
“We are constantly talking about these situations and how to respond in these situations,” Cordeiro said. “We have had training on Run, Hide, Fight.”
When stories of incidents like Ohio State reach administrators and staff, they take time to reflect on their own school polices and evaluate the standard of safety precautions already put in place.
“It’s something where we go back and take a look at what we’re doing… as those news stories go out,” Garcia said.
Colleges and Universities
At College of the Canyons, students are instructed to “Shelter in Place” instead of “Run, Hide, Fight” in the case of an on-campus emergency.
“We do have some resources available that reference ‘Run, Hide, Fight,’ but typically our messages that we’ve sent out are to ‘Shelter in Place,’” said Eric Harnish, COC’s vice president of public information, advocacy and external relations.
To prepare students for a shelter-in-place incident, COC distributes a student guide to campus emergencies at the beginning of the semester in addition to an online orientation to review safety information.
“Material is also available online and then we have a series of videos called ‘Take a Second,’” Harnish said. “They’re minute-long videos on our website and we encourage faculty to share those in class.”
The campus also holds drills, like the one held in Valencia campus’ Mentry Hall Nov. 15, to ask students and employees to practice the shelter in place scenario during the school day.
“In terms of response, we have a number of systems in place to get out messaging during an incident,” Harnish said.
This emergency notification system includes text messages, emails and phone calls that are sent to all currently enrolled students and employees, according to Harnish.
“We also have a phone intercom system where we can quickly broadcast messages to phones, particularly in classrooms… and another notification system that allows us to broadcast a message to all of the instructor computer work stations,” he said.
COC’s emergency response proceedings also include an incident command team of about 40 people who have undergone FEMA, CERT, CPR and emergency notification training.
“They’re all people that go through training of how to respond in an emergency situation,” he said.
Altogether, the overall goal, in all of districts and campuses, is to keep students and staff safe, as well as prepared, during an emergency situation.
“Student safety is a top priority and we want to make sure that everyone that works here or attends classes here understands what to do and feels safe when they’re on campus,” Harnish said.
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_