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When life gives you lemons, make some lemonade; or What they never tell you when you prepare for… A Presentation Regarding the Events of November 10 th,

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Presentation on theme: "When life gives you lemons, make some lemonade; or What they never tell you when you prepare for… A Presentation Regarding the Events of November 10 th,"— Presentation transcript:

1 When life gives you lemons, make some lemonade; or What they never tell you when you prepare for… A Presentation Regarding the Events of November 10 th, 2009 at the Stissing Mountain MS/HS in Pine Plains, NY. Robert Hess, Middle School Principal Presented to the Middle Level Liaison Group March 23, 2010 R.Hess@ppcsd.org

2 What We Learned If someone wants to kill people with a gun, it is most likely going to happen. Don’t give up hope that what you may do, won’t make a difference in someone’s life. Someone with a gun can easily get into most any school and it is usually someone that you know. Think about the time of day that you are most vulnerable, and that is most likely the time you will have your problem.

3 PARENTS: Parents are going to do desperate things to get to their child so you need to be prepared for this. You will need police support. Don’t try to handle this one on your own. Parents are a great source of unintentional misinformation and will have information before you do!!!

4 POLICE: There is likely to be more than one police agency responding to the emergency. They will learn from the event just as you will and become better because of it. Police agencies, need to work with and communicate with your school on an annual basis to become familiar with your safety procedures, protocols and personnel. Police need to get access to floor plans and master keys when all building personnel are “unavailable to them.” The NYS Police and the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Department are VERY GOOD AT WHAT THEY DO!

5 MEDIA: The media will interview anyone willing to talk, therefore make sure that your public relations person (Superintendent perhaps), gets the most accurate information out to them. The media will seek out “prime” people involved in the event. You are better off (in some cases directed) letting just one person speak for the school. Words spoken are difficult to retract from the media when dealing with Grand Juries.

6 MEDIA cont. The media will remain as long as someone is talking with them. The sooner they leave, the sooner you begin the effective healing process. They will track you down at your home if you are a significant person in the event. Decide if you will answer the door or let someone else. My suggestion is to let someone else if you are a “prime” person of interest. Have a prepared statement of sorts to let someone share with the media. They will report from your home with your statement or without it.

7 EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION As in all aspects of life, effective communication is critical between police agencies, the media, parents and family members. Schools need to be ready to provide accurate information as soon as it is available. Family members not involved in the incident should not learn of the situation via the media if at all possible. A system should be set up to notify family by administration not involved in the event.

8 LOCKDOWN PROCEDURES When “sweeping” an area just prior to a lockdown, keep in mind that some people may already be “in hiding” and you may miss them. It is a good idea to call out as you clear an area. Keep in mind, during a “real” lockdown, there is nobody opening the front door. How do you want the police to get in?

9 LOCKDOWN cont. Practice your drills at various times to find out: Can you be heard at any time of the day on the PA system? What are you going to do for “bathroom” issues when it’s not a drill and you are locked down for 1-2 hours? What will you do for hydration issues if you are locked in a small area during warm weather? Do the police know your procedures to enter your room during a lockdown? Do your staff and students know what a SWAT officer looks like?

10 LOCKDOWN cont. During a lockdown, students will respond differently than staff and the adult in the room must be ready to handle student behavior once they realize that it is not a drill. Special needs students, should be prepared for a lockdown by practicing as often as necessary to understand what they need to do and how to behave. Students will sense quickly your behavior and stress level so do your best to keep things calm, even when you hear the helicopters overhead.

11 THE AFTERMATH If possible and appropriate, make sure that staff and students know that everyone is safe before they go home that day. Debrief with your staff after the first day back to regular classes. Not knowing what caused the lockdown is a powerful stress factor as people wait in their rooms. Never underestimate the strong negative impact this will have on people. Staff will respond differently to most any crisis when compared to how students will respond: Some staff may be watching from home Some staff are thinking they should have done something more or differently War veterans might respond differently to a hostage situation

12 THE AFTERMATH cont. Debrief with your building safety team as soon as possible, but no later than one week. Debrief with your safety team one month after the event. Debrief with your safety team several months after the event to see how your perspectives on the event change with time. Debriefing focuses on the overall event and is not the same as addressing some of the specific issues that come up as a result of the event and must be addressed.

13 THE AFTERMATH cont. Not all parents will appreciate your efforts during and after the event so don’t take it personally. Try to be proactive in everything you do following the event rather than responding reactively. If there is any doubt in your mind as to what the most important thing is to parents when they send their child to school, it’s not grades, sports or drama. They expect that you will send their child home to them…safe and sound!

14 PRACTICE DRILL ISSUES: WHEN YOU PRACTICE BUILDING EVACUATIONS, CONSIDER: Your ability to take attendance. Your ability to organize into groups if relocated into an “open area.” Your ability to communicate with others in a large “open area. Your ability to feed, shelter and provide bathroom facilities if they are not available when you leave your school. Your ability to get “critical elements” to the police.

15 WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY If you were trying to make some safety changes in your building, you will have a narrow window of opportunity to do so following an event. Time heals wounds and money will soon make the decisions for you. You will have “knee jerk” reactions from various groups following an event. Sound judgment is critical during this period so use this time wisely. You must make changes but try not to “over react.” BOARD OF ED PARENTS & COMMUNITY MEMBERS UNIONS ADMINISTRATION

16 AFTERMATH…MUCH LATER Everyone copes with stress differently over time. It becomes difficult to determine who is still “affected negatively” because of coping mechanisms that everyone uses to hide true feelings. Make sure that you find ways to “check-in” with your staff at various times. This should be an on-going process. Look for: Changes in attendance patterns Reactions to “practice lockdown drills” Reactions to real “lock out” procedures Changes in overt behavior patterns

17 On a personal note… I gave only one interview and that was to the Poughkeepsie Journal on 12/20/09. The reporter was Emily Stewart. The article was very accurate except for the fact that I never attempted to take the gun away. I was asked by a free lance writer to do a story for Readers’ Digest…I declined. The trial, if there is to be one will bring on many more requests. It is my desire to avoid comments to anyone in the media. I was asked by the Safety Coordinator of Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES to talk to him about the actual hostage situation for the purpose of perhaps helping others which I did this past February. It is my hope that this experience and what I can share with other schools will perhaps help them avoid or lessen the impact of such a crisis.


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