Conducting individual drills in each of the 46 Rutherford County Schools is essential to maintain safety for students, faculty and staff, said Lt. Brad Harrison of the Sheriff’s Office’s School Resource Officers Division.
That’s why the SRO Division developed individual drills for each school that were conducted earlier this fall.
“The exercise involved each school in the county demonstrating an evacuation, accounting for students and staff, identifying a relocation site, identifying a mode for getting to the relocation site, logistics once there and dismissal from the relocation site,” Lt. Harrison said. “Although there was not a pass or fail grade system on these drills, we consider them to have been successful. It was learning process for areas of improvement.”
Rutherford County Schools’ Director Don Odom said, “We place a priority on school safety and have a long-standing, invaluable partnership with the Sheriff’s Office and its School Resource Officer program, which was the first of its kind in Tennessee. Our School Board recognized the need for additional SROs this year, and we are grateful that our County Commission provided the needed funding. SROs are a vital layer of protection in our schools because they provide security and opportunities for students to build a rapport with law enforcement officers, which often times is the best way to prevent problems before they occur.”
Sheriff Robert Arnold said SROs must be prepared.
“The Sheriff’s Office and the SRO Division place an extreme emphasis on children’s safety in schools and providing that safety for all children in Rutherford County schools,” Sheriff Arnold said. “We go above and beyond for training to do different scenarios to always be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.”
Lt. Harrison said SROs constructed a uniform safety and response plan for Rutherford County Schools that was implemented by the school system in 1999. The plan includes SROs teaching strategies to all faculty members and developing drills to test the knowledge of the faculty and the plan.
Each year, officers from the SRO division and the School Central Office personnel review the plans and devise ideas for future drills. The design of the drills is based on safety concerns and current trends in school violence. The school system’s emergency response plan has been reviewed, expanded upon and improved each year.
The schools perform at least two table top exercises and two safety drills each year developed from these meetings. The SROs facilitate the drills.
The week prior to the fall drills, the SROs had each school perform a scenario-based table top exercise. It discussed each school’s expected and potential response to an emergency. It was held as an open forum.
Administrators and faculty designated as safety team members made decisions and comments. Suggestions were solicited. The safety plan for each school was reviewed. Revisions, amendments and enhancements to each individual school’s plans could be made at this time.
This drill preparation involved scheduling the 46 individual drills over a five- day period and the logistics surrounding the exercise. The timetable had to be modified to create the least disturbance in the educational process in conjunction with achieving goals outlined for safety. Scheduling considerations were testing, availability of staff, coordination with other emergency response entities, manpower of the SROs, weather and special events.
SRO supervisors briefed their officers on the drills and areas for improvement. They will ensure any concerns will be addressed with their school administrators. The school administrators may set up meetings involving the SRO, crisis team leaders and faculty as needed.
“The drills confirmed the great cooperation and concern for the safety of our students by the Rutherford County School System and the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office,” Lt. Harrison said.