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Notwithstanding the horrible, tragic deaths at the elementary school in Connecticut today, you should know that schools are one of the safer places your child can be at during an emergency.

All schools have prepared emergency plans for disasters like earthquakes and fires, and ever since the Columbine HS school shooting years ago, schools and police have planned and trained for on-campus and near campus shootings. Moreover, teachers, students, and administrators practice these emergency plans through regular drills.

Locally, here in the Mission Area, officers are visiting schools today to reassure administrators. Just like an earthquake reminds us to prepare for an emergency, these unfortunate shooting incidents are good reminders to revisit plans and training.

Rehearsing what one would do when faced with an active shooting situation is one of the best ways to protect ourselves for a future, unexpected event.

Since the Portland shooting two days ago, we have been discussing with our officers in roll calls what they would do if faced with an emergency call for a shooting at a school.

In addition to dropping by schools over the next couple days to reassure, we (police managers) are encouraging the officers to visit the schools to become familiar with their layouts.

Since the Columbine HS shooting, law enforcement has generally adopted the tactic of an immediate entry to the school to confront an active shooter. Many were witness to that response years ago at Jewish School shooting in the SF valley, and reports from students today bear out that officers went directly into the school to neutralize the shooter(s).

Every officer in LAPD has received training through situation simulations how to deal with an active shooter situation at a school or other large venue like a shopping center.

One thing the public can do to help guard against these incidents is to be alert to warning signs of persons’ behavior that might lead to this kind of a response. After action studies of shootings often reveal that signs of depression, anger, planning, bragging, threatening were ignored. Also, schools follow strict rules of accessing the grounds during school hours. Those rules are there to protect against off-campus intruders.

Hug your kids and loved ones today when you see them next. These tragic incidents can happen anywhere at anytime. Help your kids put these incidents in perspective so they don’t become overwhelmed. Our kids tend to adopt our own response and reaction to such incidents.

Lt. Paul Vernon