How Would Gulfport Schools Respond to Crisis?

Today's shooting massacre at a Connecticut elementary school is a national tragedy. Protecting our schools and community is a No. 1 priority. How prepared is Gulfport to respond to a crisis?

Whether it is a public elementary school or a large high school, each Pinellas County school is required to have a security and crisis plan in place, in case of emergency.

Boca Ciega High School and Gulfport Elementary are no exceptions.

Crisis planning is updated yearly, according to Melanie Marquez, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County School District, which by law is exempt from sharing its security plans with the public and media.

What Marquez was able to disclose is that each crisis plan is tailored to the individual needs and challenges of each public school in Pinellas County.

In addition, each school is required to hold emergency drills for evacuating students and for lockdowns, when school doors are locked and no one is permitted to leave or enter the building. Schools also have an email alert system for contacting the school community.

"The crisis planning is annual, with each school having its individual plan," Marquez said Friday afternoon. "The emergency planning is designed to consider the needs of each school and the various potential hazards, whether external or internal."

Sgt. David DiSano with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says deputies train annually for "active shooter situations" and have a procedures in place, if a crisis were to occur. He adds that the department reviews those plans, especially following a shooting in a public place.

The training is to respond to emergenices in schools as well as shopping malls, parks and other public areas where people congregate.

"We take into account the tactics, what worked, what didn’t work. We get feedback from these other agencies, that’s something we’re constantly doing is sharing information to better protect these people," he said. "Our policies are always under review," he said.

"These incidents, they can happen anywhere, and we try to base our training around various places that we think of," DiSano said.

On Friday, 20 children and six adults died in an elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The shooter was killed inside the school. The 24-year-old suspect reportedly killed his mother at the school.

DiSano says that law enforcement officials are shocked to hear of the elementary school shooting today.

"We tune into what’s going on out there, and we get chocked up just as much as anybody else would,” he said.


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