It is a parent's nightmare.
As the horrible events unfolded Friday at a Connecticut elementary school where 20 children were killed, parents everywhere hugged their children a little harder and wondered "what if?"
What if the unspeakable happened here? How would Pine-Richland School District handle it?
The district has an Emergency Operations Plan that it puts into effect; the plan is mandated by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Services Code. It is available on the district's website by clicking here.
It outlines procedures for school administrators to follow that include setting up a command center and working through 9-1-1 and the Allegheny County Emergency Management Agency.
The superintendent and building principal merge into a unified command with emergency services personnel, according to the plan.
Drills prepare faculty, staff and students on emergency procedures.
At times of emergency, the district activates its rapid-response system to notify parents through email and phone messages. An announcement also is posted on the district's website.
Pine-Richland Communications Director Rachel Hathhorn sends out the alerts and keeps media informed of the situation.
High school students were evacuated to Pine-Richland Middle School after a bomb threat was found in a high school restroom.
Northern Regional Police conducted a sweep of the building, using K-9 units.
They had done a similar sweep of the middle school in March 2011 when a bomb threat was discovered on a locker room wall, according to e-mail/phone notifications sent out about 11 p.m. that night by Hathhorn.
Northern Regional Police did a sweep of the building that evening and again in the morning and found it to be clear.
"We take threats very seriously," Hathhorn said in an interview at that time.
When Pennsylvania Auditor General Jack Wagner toured Pine-Richland facilities in June 2008, he praised the district as being progressive in its security efforts.
Video surveillance cameras are located in school buildings, on school property and in school vehicles.
Northern Regional Police Department has access to the school's video surveillance system. The sophisticated system includes computers in police cars that can monitor the cameras at the school, enabling officers to assess a situation while they are en route to a call.
"We work together well," the chief said during the 2008 visit. "Our relationship with Pine-Richland School District, if not the best in the state, is one of the best."
An emergency alert system was installed on the high school campus during the recent expansion/renovation project that can be easily spotted in the parking lots—alert buttons are located on poles with blue lights atop them.
Entrances to district buildings require visitors to push a buzzer to gain entrance and go directly into the main office. Richland Elementary is the exception, but improvements are planned for it to improve security.
For the very latest on the Connecticut shooting, click here for coverage from the Newtown Patch.
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