Boulder Valley School District

Beyond Lockdown Drills - Building employees’ capacity to respond in emergencies

safety drill training
Susan Cousins

BVSD has a layered system of security measures to protect students and everyone else in our buildings. Among those layers are training, preparedness, and the physical security features of buildings.

Students, teachers, and parents are all familiar with the handful of drills--lockdown, fire, tornado--practiced regularly at schools. While these are an important component of being prepared for emergencies, BVSD’s efforts in preparedness go far beyond this. 


Practicing the plan

This past August, before school started, BVSD security staff gathered with representatives from the Lafayette police and fire departments at Centaurus High School to conduct an active threat exercise with school staff. Over the course of the morning, the group played through two different scenarios in which a police officer, assuming the role of a “bad guy,” entered the school triggering the school’s response protocols. These protocols are described in the school’s Emergency Operations Plan, a document each school has that outlines the response to various emergency situations. 

 “We practice drills and discuss procedures, but physically participating in a scenario, even a controlled one, puts staff in the position to think through how they would respond in the moment given a particular situation,” BVSD Director of Security Brendan Sullivan explained. 

Immediately after the exercise, participants had the opportunity to debrief with BVSD Security staff and law enforcement personnel. 

“It is valuable for people to learn what to expect during a situation like this and how they will respond individually in a stressful situation,” explained Sullivan. “Going through the exercise also gives staff the chance to experience how others in the building, whether fellow staff members or law enforcement, might behave during a crisis, and to see how the building itself responds.” 


Upgraded security features through the bond program

Over the past several years through the Building for Student Success program, BVSD has enhanced security features in buildings to increase control over access to schools as well as our ability to monitor the buildings. Door locks, both interior and exterior, throughout schools are being updated to allow for central control and monitoring. The new door controls also allow for internal corridor partitions to be closed remotely if there is a need to isolate a threat in an area. In addition, BVSD Security can tell if an exterior door to a school is propped open and can lock or unlock doors remotely. 

“New features installed through the bond program kept the “intruder” from moving deeper into the school,” Sullivan said of one exercise at Centaurus High.


Going deeper with tailored school trainings

According to Sullivan, BVSD routinely conducts smaller training sessions with schools and employee groups. Nearly 40 have been done so far this school year. Some of these trainings are presentations with facilitated discussions that give staff members the opportunity to ask questions about protocols or how to respond in particular situations. 

“We want to review the protocols we have in place but also build staff’s individual situational awareness and capacity for making decisions during a crisis,” explained Sullivan. 

In other training sessions, groups might work through tabletop exercises. Participants are given a scenario that could occur at a school and work through their responses with their co-workers. The groups work through all stages of the scenario, from the event itself to reuniting with parents and supporting students and others affected by it afterward. 

“Going through the training scenarios reinforces best practices and shows us how we can improve,” explained Sullivan.


Always looking out for student safety

Because they work with children daily, BVSD staff members have certain legal responsibilities to watch out for students’ safety and well being. Each year all BVSD staff are trained on topics including recognizing and reporting child abuse and neglect, protecting student data privacy, the standard response protocols, and reporting student behaviors of concern. Supporting this important work is a cadre of counselors, threat assessment teams, and a new cross-functional district team that provides support to schools in addressing threatening behavior. 

“It takes all of us working together to keep kids safe,” said Sullivan. 


Remember, if you or your student see something--say something! If you hear of a possible threat or see something out of the ordinary, immediately contact your school administrator, BVSD Security (720-561-5015) or local law enforcement.


BE READY - In November, we will continue our series on school safety, by exploring the crucial role BVSD school counselors play in supporting students and keeping them safe.


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