COLUMBIA, SC — The Columbia Police Department today will introduce a new school safety program aimed at getting police and educators on the same page during a crisis.
The police department will introduce a nationally recognized standard response protocol for school emergencies at Imagine Columbia Leadership Academy on North Main Street. The police department is rolling out the program in day cares and private schools across the city, said interim police chief Ruben Santiago. The department also hopes to work with the public schools, too, he said.
The program uses color codes and pictures that allow police and school officials to communicate with each other, and it covers scenarios as vast as tornados, wild animals on campus and shooters, Santiago said.
“We need something simple, fast and quick,” Santiago said.
The protocol was developed by the “I Love U Guys” Foundation, which was formed by the parents of a girl killed in a 2006 school shooting in Colorado. It takes its name from the last text message the girl sent her parents.
The new protocol does not replace existing emergency plans in schools, said Cpl. Scott Stover, who leads the department’s crime prevention unit. Most schools and police departments have the same types of plans, but the new program makes sure they all speak the same language and take the same actions.
“They will already know what they’re doing and what we’re looking for them to do,” Stover said. “We don’t have to stop and explain it in the middle of chaos.”
The police department has had a plan for responding to school emergencies for years, Santiago said. But officers looked for ways to enhance their preparedness after 20 elementary school students were gunned down in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
“People in the community have asked, ‘What is CPD’s response to a Sandy Hook situation,’” Santiago said. “What is our preparedness and what are we capable of doing?”
Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307.