Duval school police, staff train for reuniting parents, students in active shooter situation

Drills at Crown Point Elementary, Mandarin High on Wednesday designed to test technology, procedures

Dozens of Duval County school teachers and staff were trained Wednesday on how to help families get back together in the event of a mass shooting or other evacuation emergency.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Dozens of Duval County school teachers and staff were trained Wednesday on how to help families get back together in the event of a mass shooting or other evacuation emergency.

It’s training they hope they never have to use.

News4JAX followed along Wednesday as Duval County School Police ran an active shooter drill with volunteers at Crown Point Elementary School.

The district wanted to find out how well the plan they have in place to respond to such an event would work and how the technology would hold up.

The training session with security contractor “Raptor Security” included a group of school staff representatives from almost every school in the district, along with big groups of volunteers who were standing in for parents and students.

“There are two major critical incidents that will happen in any emergency or at a school. One is communication often will fail. The other is reunification,” Duval County School Police Chief Greg Burton said.

First, the district tested its legally required emergency alert system, which would get the word out immediately to the phones and emails of families of the affected school. The school sent out a test emergency alert notification, like it would in a real emergency.

Dozens of Duval County school teachers and staff were trained Wednesday on how to help families get back together in the event of a mass shooting or other evacuation emergency.

Then, teachers and staff walked through the process of receiving parent actors at the scene, taking them to the holding area where they would be waiting in a live situation, and then, one by one, using the district’s emergency app to match up students and parents.

For the drill, the “students” were given fake names like Abraham Lincoln, Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Luke Skywalker.

“Once the person says that I need this student, then a runner will go get the parent, and then they will bring them together,” Burton said. “And it’s actually a very exciting thing to see when you see a parent come together with a child.”

As each reunion happens, names are check off a list so not is left behind.

“Now, it’s had a few hiccups,” volunteer Christin Quattrone said. “We now know what to look for like last names and stuff like that because a lot of parents and students don’t have the same last name, so they were sending us to the wrong places because this is their first time also.”

The public isn’t allowed to know more for security reasons, but, Burton said uncovering the hiccups is why the training is so vital, because it makes them less likely to happen in a real-world scenario.

In addition to testing the procedures and technology, the drill also mentally prepares personnel to respond to a traumatic and possibly even deadly event.

“Because when something really happens, chaos breaks out, and if you’re not prepared with a plan, you don’t know how people are going to react,” Quattrone said.

According to Burton, this was a valuable exercise that will help the district not be caught off guard if the worst should happen.

“Albert Einstein said, ‘Tell me something, I’ll forget. Teach me something, I might remember. Involve me, I will learn.’ We’re involving everyone from the district, all of our partners, everyone who can be involved in a disaster when it may occur or an evacuation at one of our schools, to get them to learn repetition, repetition, repetition,” Burton said.

The drill also took place at Mandarin High School.

The Duval County School Police Department will be writing up a report on the results of the drill in the next week.

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The district has made other changes, following the mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde. It recently partnered with a company called “Armoured One,” which specializes in bullet-resistant doors and glass designed to slow down a shooter.

The school district’s deal with the company does not include installing those, but it will conduct safety assessments to look for possible vulnerabilities. It will also provide online training for every DCPS employee.

School begins for Duval County students on Aug. 15. Click here for more information.

Before school starts, parents should consider downloading the Duval County Public Schools app and turning on notifications for the district and their child’s school. That’s the fastest way to get an alert in an emergency evacuation situation.

Parents also need to make sure the contact information on file with their child’s school is up-to-date. That’s always good to double-check ahead of the school year, also. If there’s an evacuation, only the specific parent listed on file at the school will be able to pick up their child.


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Joe covers education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.