Columbia police rolling out new school safety plan

Standard protocol will ensure that both teachers and officers know how to respond when chaos breaks out

nophillips@thestate.comJanuary 11, 2013 

— 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.

The State is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service